ITTO and Soka Gakkai to help empower women in Togo through forest restoration

1 July 2020, Tokyo, Japan

Women tend a community nursery created as part of a completed ITTO project to assist forest landscape restoration in Togo. Photo: ODEF

ITTO and the Soka Gakkai organization have agreed to join forces to support forest landscape restoration (FLR) in Togo with the aim of empowering women to improve their livelihoods and increase the resilience of local landscapes in the face climate change. Soka Gakkai is a global community-based Buddhist organization that promotes peace, culture and education.

Under an agreement between the two organizations, which was signed on 1 July 2020 at Soka Gakkai headquarters in Tokyo, Japan, Soka Gakkai will provide JPY 10 million (approximately USD 93 000) to implement a pilot ITTO project, “Support for women’s groups with the restoration of forest landscapes in the prefectures of Blitta and Lacs, Togo”. The project will be implemented by the African Women’s Network for Community Management of Forests—a non-governmental organization and a member of ITTO’s Civil Society Advisory Group.

At the signing, ITTO Executive Director Gerhard Dieterle thanked Soka Gakkai for its support of ITTO’s work on FLR in Africa.

“This is exactly the kind of innovative, grassroots initiative that can make a huge difference to the lives of rural women as well as protect local forests,” he said.

Soka Gakkai president Minoru Harada said his organization was glad to support the project, which will bring real benefit to rural women and their families.

“FLR has grown enormously in recent years,” said Dr Dieterle. “This is because it is an inclusive approach that promises to reverse land degradation, increase carbon storage, help conserve biodiversity and—importantly—create sustainable livelihoods for local communities, thus contributing to several Sustainable Development Goals.”

Forests are dwindling rapidly in Togo due to pressure from a growing population, the expansion of agriculture, overexploitation, extreme weather events, and a lack of local capacity to implement sustainable forest management, leading to negative impacts on food security, wood supply and livelihoods. Women in rural communities are among the most affected due to gender-related inequalities.

The aim of the pilot project, which will be launched on 1 September, is to empower participating women to improve their rights and living conditions through FLR. It will help the women increase their organizational, managerial and technical skills in nursery establishment and maintenance, enrichment planting for woodfuel, agroforestry, food cropping, and the production of wood and non-wood forest products for sale in local markets.

Expected results from the pilot, which will take place in the villages of Pagala-gare and Agouegan in Togo’s Blitta and Lacs prefectures, include restored forests, improved livelihoods, higher family incomes, greater resilience in the face of climate change and the increased participation of local women in forestry. The project will also help the participating communities create an economic buffer against the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

ITTO is an intergovernmental organization promoting the sustainable management and conservation of tropical forests and the expansion and diversification of international trade in tropical timber from sustainably managed and legally harvested forests.

Read a related article in the Seikyo newspaper (in Japanese).