“We all share one planet and are one humanity; there is no escaping this reality.”
― Wangari Maathai
The planet is dying, and African women are some of the primary constituents affected by this fact. There is growing evidence that the continent faces major environmental challenges, threatening our access to food, clean water and general livelihood. As the late Feminist Environmentalist Wangari Maathai noted, we share one planet and must also share the burdens we place on it –as well as the solutions for fixing it. While not a stand-alone theme for AWDF, climate change continues to be a key priority area, and falls under the organisation’s Economic Security and Justice thematic area. At AWDF, we recognise the intersection of environmentalism and social justice to improve the present (and future) realities of African women. Over the last four (4) years, AWDF has supported six (6) organisations across four (4) different countries (Cameroon, Zambia, Ethiopia and South Africa) with over USD 130,000 in tackling climate change and its various effects on African women’s lives.
The six (6) organisations are:
- Community Agriculture and Environmental Protection Association (Cameroon)
- Dynamic Sisters Farming Group (Cameroon)
- Surplus People Project (SPP)
- Earth Lore Foundation (South Africa)
- Zambia Alliance of Women (ZAW) (Zambia)
- SOS Addis (Ethiopia)
Five of the six organizations were supported to implement projects that sought to create or improve women’s livelihood in agriculture with a central focus on food security and climate adaptation, with amounts ranging from USD10,000 – USD38,000. Through our grant opportunities, these organisations engaged in various activities to increase smart agricultural practices that could help improve the environment. CAEPA undertook sensitisation trainings for women on climate change issues and its effects on agricultural practices, including how to use improved seed for maize cultivation and organic fertilizers for bumper harvests. Earth Lore Foundation and the Surplus People Project both conducted trainings on organic manure production and agro ecology farming, while organisations like the Zambia Alliance of Women trained 300 female farmers on sustainable land governance and climate smart agriculture. SOS Addis – Ethiopia worked on waste management and helped women recycle plastic waste to re-usable items that were sold to generate income. The project trained 50 women in plastic art/re-using the plastic waste in handicraft and further conducted environmental lessons for 90 people selected from beneficiaries, local administration representatives and other stakeholders.
Results! Results! Results!
Through the support of AWDF, these organisations made significant interventions into agricultural practices across their countries which included the following:
- More women are now practicing “climate smart” agriculture by integrating the planting of tree species in their farming system to check soil erosion and conserve ground water to improve soil fertility;
- Farm productivity has increased without damaging the environment;
- Food security has been enhanced through the reviving of the traditional seeds and these women now own and control the seeds they cultivate;
- The women do not spend extra money to buy manure since they produce it themselves, and can control what goes into the crops they are producing.
We are cleaners with pride
“I had little idea about the use of plastic bags apart from throwing them away until I joined SOS ADDIS. I can now make bags out of it. I have transferred this knowledge to my daughter who now assists me with the picking of the waste rubber. It costs us nothing to get these raw materials”, says a beneficiary of SOS Addis.
“We are cleaners, we clean all gutters and make sure it is not blocked by plastic waste. We collect waste plastics as well to protect animals from eating these and dying. We use waste plastics to generate money and it feels good. At times we go to far places to collect and even buy, because we know how useful it is” -group of beneficiaries of SOS.
Passionate about traditional farming
Make Halala, as she is affectionately known in Avontuur, Mpumalanga, is passionate about traditional farming. Poverty, unemployment, the loss of traditional seeds and foods are high in Avontuur, making life for women-headed families particularly difficult. So discovering a way to farm without buying seeds, fertilisers and pesticides has been very exciting and inspiring. A year ago, Make Halala started attending EarthLore’s community dialogues and the Ukulima agro-ecology trainings. No sooner is an idea introduced than it appears in the family garden – from intercropping with marigolds to stop cutworms eating their tomatoes, water harvesting using boxed ridges, making compost and liquid manure, to planting pulses with seeds from the Seed Fair in Zimbabwe. Make is a good teacher and is constantly encouraging neighbouring farmers to adopt these approaches as well.
Make Halala also enjoys feeding her family with the nourishing traditional foods and vegetables growing in their garden. “I am very happy to be reviving our tradition and practices. You need to have a connection with nature and take care of nature because then it gives you healthy food that is good for your body.” In the past, Make Halala and other Avontuur farmers would go to town to buy food, but now they only go to purchase the few groceries that they cannot make at home. What makes Make Halala happiest of all is when she is planting traditional seeds that have been shared with her so that she can propagate them to also share with other farmers to ensure the revival of lost traditional crops. Visitors to Make Halala’s field in December were excited to recognise Umngomeni, a traditional crop that had been completely lost in Avontuur. She is also very happy to share the knowledge with the rest of the community about the importance of reviving their traditional culture.
AWDF continues to be proud of our grantees for their future-oriented strategies to improve women’s lives. To our grantees, we say: well done Sisters! Let’s continue #ShapingAfricasFuture.