– let voices of women, be heard during discussions on Africa’s development and conservation.
HARARE, ZIMBABWE – Leadership in the conservation sector is still dominated by males yet women who make the backbone of society in Africa, take on the bulk of the childrearing, housekeeping and income earning.
According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), women make up 70 percent of Africa’s agricultural workforce and grow 90 percent of the food.
The truer picture of women contribution in conservation is found in rural Africa, where the so-called “lesser sex” is said to be the best organizational managers.
It is however unfortunate that women’s voices are noticeably absent from discussions on Africa’s development and on this ‘International Women’s Day for 2023’, conservationists have made a call to have women’s voices heard.
Land is a barrier for women
Land is an important economic asset and source of livelihoods, it is also closely linked to community identity, history and culture.
Communities, therefore, can easily mobilize around land issues, making land a central object of conflict thereby disproportionately elbowing women out of the land ownership agenda.
According to the United Nations (UN) toolkit and guidance for preventing and managing land and natural resources conflict, land reforms are required to protect women.
“Legal reforms to protect women’s land and property rights must be complemented by other initiatives including, information and awareness campaigns, legal aid, monitoring and addressing disinheritance, and, promoting the joint-registering of land rights.
The mobile livelihoods of women require access to territory, not individual parcels,” the UN tool kit said.
There is competition between the need to have land for farming and conservation purposes and mineral extraction, especially in Africa, a phenomenon that questions access to land and security of tenure.
In Zimbabwe currently, mining takes precedence over any other land activity and this impact negatively on the work most women are partaking in conserving nature.
“Without land, there is no conservation to talk about,” Pia Louis director of the Namibian Association of Community Based Natural Resource Management Support Organizations (NASCO) said in an interview a few months ago.
“Where I come from in southern Africa, the issue of land is a big one, and using conservation is a way of establishing that dialogue around land use and issues of human-wildlife conflict. The most important aspect is about indigenous peoples having a voice,” Pia Louis said.
Women lead by examples
While the number of women in positions of conservation decision making is still very low, great strides are being made in training and empowering rural women.
Akashinga project in the Zambezi valley, North west of the capital Harare, is one such organisation that has introduced an all-female wildlife rangers’ program in a bid to empower women.
The program started with 16 young females but has made phenomenal growth such that one of the rangers Nyaradzo Hoto, was recipient of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) International Ranger of the Year Award, during an African Protected Area Conference in Kigali, Rwanda, last year.
In 2018 African Wildlife Foundation introduced a community scouts’ program of females patrolling Mbire district in Zimbabwe’s wildlife-rich Lower Zambezi Valley.
This marked the beginning for the country’s rural women striving to create a new future by taking up active roles in biodiversity protection.
With support from the European Union, AWF’s Country Director Olivia Mufute and her team in Zimbabwe equipped community scouts with the tools and training to manage poaching and human-wildlife conflict in the Lower Zambezi Mana Pools Trans-Frontier Conservation Area.
This was done in collaboration with local conservation partners to improve farming and fishing practices so that local communities in Zimbabwe and Zambia could conserve the wildlife and the ecological systems essential for their livelihoods.
Increasing the participation of women in these processes is critical, particularly in rural areas like Mbire
Zimbabwe boast of several female leaders in the conservation sector like Amkela Sidange – Environmental Management Agency (EMA)’s Environmental Education and Publicity Manager.
Ever Chinoda – is an animal law expert and Executive Director of Speak out for Animals.
Patience Gandiwa – is Director International Conservation Affairs & Technical Advisor in the Director General’s Office at ZimParks Head Office.Olivia Mufute – is AWF – Zimbabwe Country Director just to name a few.