Women fight rural poverty in Africa

19 September 2019, Yokohama, Japan

Cécile Bibiane Ndjebet, Founder and President of REFACOF presenting on the women’s challenges and roles in restoring landscapes, alleviating poverty and mitigating climate change in Africa. Photo: K. Sato/ITTO

Women in Africa continue to face huge challenges but can play powerful roles in restoring landscapes, alleviating poverty and mitigating climate change, according to Cécile Bibiane Ndjebet, Founder and President of the African Women’s Network for Community Management of Forests (REFACOF). Ms Ndjebet was speaking at an ITTO side-event at TICAD 7 in Yokohama, Japan, last month.

The side-event, which was held on 28 August 2019, was co-organized by ITTO, Japan’s Forestry Agency and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), with the support of Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the City of Yokohama and Kanagawa Prefecture.
According to Ms Ndjebet, women in Africa face the following challenges:
  • the increased degradation of forest landscapes from unsustainable charcoal production and other poor practices, which is reducing women’s capacity to support their families;
  • discriminatory local practices and customs against women in rural communities, which limit women’s access to land for livelihood-related activities;
  • a lack of secure rights to lands and forests for women;
  • the low institutional capacity of women groups, which hinders their economic empowerment; and
  • the underrepresentation of women in decision-making structures in the forest sector, which means their priorities and requirements are often ignored.
Despite the challenges, Ms Ndjebet informed participants that many African women’s groups are achieving encouraging results. She described the following initiatives led by women to combat rural poverty in West and Central Africa and help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals:
  • The organization of local women to develop new skills in sustainable forest management, forest restoration, agroforestry, sustainable charcoal production and marketing in Côte d’Ivoire, helping them earn income to support their families and to become leaders in promoting women in the country’s forest sector.  Watch a video
  • The rehabilitation and restoration of degraded forests by refugees, internally displaced people and local populations in Côte d’Ivoire. The initiative contributed to peace, social cohesion, improved livelihoods, food security and the empowerment of women. Watch a video
  • The protection and restoration of mangrove ecosystems by women in Cameroon, contributing to food security, improved incomes, better health, renewable energy and the empowerment of local women, who are now organized in cooperatives. Watch a video 
The Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) is an international conference led by the Japanese government and co-sponsored by the United Nations, the United Nations Development Programme, the African Union Commission and the World Bank. An estimated 4500 people attended TICAD 7 on 28–30 August 2019.
Watch an interview with Ms Ndjebet
Download Ms Ndjebet presentation "Combating rural community poverty in West and Central Africa" below