Women Key to Slowing Desertification

This ENN piece is couple of days old, but once again the academic geek came out in me: couldn’t pass up an opportunity to think about the role of gender in addressing environmental woes.

Women, who make up about 70 percent of rural workers worldwide, are key to turning back the spread of deserts, the head of the United Nations’ main agency on rural poverty said on Wednesday.

Desertification and land degradation threatens the livelihoods of over one billion people in more than 100 countries and causes annual economic losses of $6.5 billion, according to the U.N.

And it is women who must be bought into the fight against the spreading sands, Lennart Bage, president of the Rome-based International Fund for Agricultural Development, told Reuters in an interview.

“Women are very often at the frontline of fighting desertification, or managing land degradation, because very often, in many parts of the world, women are the farmers,” he said, sitting in the U.N.’s Beijing offices.

“Women are crucial, as very often they are the ones responsible for the family for getting fuel wood, water and for tending the fields,” Bage added.

“They often know a lot about resource management.”

Of course, this isn’t a new idea, and we’ve seen it highlighted before when Wangari Maathai won the Nobel Peace Prize for her founding of the Green Belt Movement in Kenya. It’s also pretty clear, though, that white men run the show in the traditional environmental movement. I’m hoping that these organizations choose to enlist women like Maathai in harnessing the knowledge women possess, and bring them onboard for all stages of planning and implementation. We need this knowledge and experience…

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