Women’s rights, biodiversity and Africa Environment Day

Wangari Maathai

Wangari Maathai

The need to strengthen women’s rights over natural resources is the topic of an address by Braulio Ferreira De Souza Dias, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, on Africa Environment Day / Wangari Maathai Day.

“Biodiversity underpins the natural resources that provide food and livelihoods throughout the world,” said Dias, explaining how women are disproportionally affected by the loss of biodiversity as their livelihoods­ especially in developing countries­ are often tied to natural resources.

In Africa, women are estimated to produce 80 per cent of the food and are responsible for most of the storing, processing, transporting and marketing.

But despite this, rural women often don’t own land and have to depend on common property resources for food, fuel and fodder. Without land rights, there is little incentive to invest in improved management and conservation practices.

Dias outlines initiatives underway in Africa to support ecosystem conservation and restoration and emphasize the key role that women play. These include the Great Green Wall initiative for the Sahara and the Sahel and the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative. Both focus strongly on agroforestry as a means to support local communities in the sustainable management of resources while providing products such as timber, fuel and food to support livelihoods.

“As we celebrate Africa Environment Day/Wangari Maathai Day, we are reminded, as exemplified by Wangari Maathai, that women are powerful agents of change and their leadership is critical in community revitalization and renewable natural resource management,” said Dias, further emphasizing the need to advance women’s rights, support their empowerment, incorporate their knowledge and ensure their full participation.

In 2004, Wangari Maathai became the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize after decades of environmental and political activism to conserve forests in Kenya and beyond. She assisted women in planting more than 20 million trees on their farms and on schools and church compounds, believing the protection of the environment was essential to preventing conflict.

Read the full statement: Strengthening women’s rights over natural resources



Kate Langford

Kate Langford is a consultant writer with close to 20 years’ experience in communicating natural resource, environmental and land management issues for various government and non-government organizations. She previously worked as Communications Specialist for the World Agroforestry Centre in Kenya and has worked in Indonesia, Laos, Vietnam and Australia. She holds a Bachelor of Science and a Graduate Diploma in Scientific Communication.

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