Building Community Resilience to Climate Change by Empowering Women
Written By: JGI Canada staff
Category: From The Field
In a thriving forest habitat, there lives a diverse range of animals from chimps to birds, to the smallest rodents. The forest provides for these animals. At the edge of the trees lives a community of people who depend on the forest for food and firewood. Just like other animals, humans rely on the natural world to survive and thrive.
When the health of animals and the environment suffer, we as humans feel these impacts. As habitat loss continues and proximity between humans and wildlife shrinks, an increase in zoonotic disease is becoming more frequent. From the 2013-2016 Ebola outbreak to MERS, SARS, and most recently the global COVID-19 pandemic, we are clearly seeing the interconnections between animals, people, and the environment.
The theme for the 2021 International Development Week #GoForTheGoals is focusing on gender equality and climate change. JGI Canada has a new program in the Kedougou region of Senegal, working with rural communities to build their resilience to climate change, protect important chimp habitat, and support actions toward the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals under SDG# 5, SDG#13 and SDG#15.
SDG #5 – Gender Equality
Around the world, the impact of climate change disproportionately impacts women. This is no different in Senegal, where women in rural communities are mainly responsible for growing food for household consumption. Climate shocks resulting in prolonged droughts have heightened food insecurity placing a greater burden on female small-holder farmers, which makes up close to 80% of the local food production. Being the most impacted by climate change, women also hold a lot of power in their ability to demonstrate resilience, adaptability and understanding of the local challenges brought by climate change. By targeting women, this initiative links the alleviation of poverty with climate change adaptation and mitigation and gender equality. Marie Meloche, JGI Canada’s Programs Manager involved in this project says, “There can’t be change without women. This project gives them the opportunity to participate as leaders in sustainable change.” One of the objectives of this project is to create opportunities for women through challenging norms and practices that limit women’s access to livelihood and economic and social decision-making power.
SDG #13 – Climate Action
The Building Community Resilience project supports climate action by using both adaptation and mitigation approaches. Farmers in the targeted villages are supported to adopt climate-smart agriculture technology and plant more Indigenous drought-resistant crops. Mitigation to some of the negative impacts of climate change is incorporated by training women groups on the production of biomass charcoal as a more sustainable alternative to cutting down trees for firewood as fuel for cooking.
SDG #15 – Life on Land
Deforestation has a direct impact on critical chimp habitat and the well-being of communities who rely on forest products for their survival. The Building Community Resilience project aims to build greater awareness on natural resource management, encouraging the sustainable harvest of forest products that both humans and chimps consume, and contributing to halting deforestation by planting Indigenous trees in the ecologically important zones.
This work, while incredibly important, hasn’t been without its challenges. The global pandemic limits the JGI Canada team’s ability to travel, meet with local partners and visit communities targeted by the project. Nevertheless, our program staff have been working tirelessly with dedicated partners in Senegal to begin implementing these solutions, knowing that the work must continue. The threats of climate change are urgent, and this pandemic highlights how interconnected we all are. Now more than ever, it is important for all of us to work together in solidarity to #GoForTheGoals, and find a pathway to build back a better, healthier world.