Speaking during the training on natural resources management (NRM) and social accountability monitoring conducted in different villages in Iringa and Mufindi districts by Lawyers Environmental Action Team (LEAT), they said that empowerment and educating women and communities on natural resources is vital and can help reverse many degraded areas and ensure sustainable management.
Secretary of Kiwere village natural resource committee Zuhura Mhagama said that after the training, the village has managed to control deforestation at Kidunda village land forest reserve and Msende mountain which had been severely deforested.
“The village land forest reserve and the mountain had been degraded but after the training, we have managed to arrest the situation. Therefore, if given more training and empowered, women can contribute to natural resource management in many places,” she said.
Ashura Ramadhan also a villager and leader explained that the regular trainings have helped raise awareness among women on sustainable natural resources conservation practices. Women fall victims of the effects brought about by natural resources degradation. If you educate women, it is educating the entire community, she added.
The women can easily pass the knowledge they have acquired to other community members particularly youth, elders and children and ensures trans- generational informational sharing on natural resources related matters.
The village chairman for planning, economics and finance, Hamza Chang’a explained that after LEAT’s training followed by close management of the natural resource especially the village land forest reserve and Msende mountain, elephants have surfaced again after disappearing more than twenty years ago.
Enhancing women’s participation in various developmental activities is an essential component not only for achieving social justice but also for reducing poverty and natural resources destruction issues such as land degradation, deforestation and water catchments encroachments by community members.
LEAT’s Iringa based Programme officer, Musa Mnasizu explained that recognizing role for women in development initiatives plays a vital role towards economic growth and achievements of various developmental goals.
He said that through the trainings women are now aware of their roles and take fundamental steps to ensure that village resources are not subjected to wantonly abuse by their greedy leaders.
For his part, Kiwere village executive officer, Aloyce Shirima explained that women are now aware on the importance of conserving natural resources and take part in discouraging natural resources degrading activities such as cutting trees for domestic uses such as fire woods and encroaching water catchment areas
He said that many women have benefited from the project which is being implemented in Kiwere, Mfyome, Itagutwa, Kitapilimwa, Mtera, Mbweleli, Makatapola, Kinyali, Kisanga, Kinyika, Magombwe, Isele, Malinzanga, Kitisi, Idodi, and Tungamalenga villages in Iringa district
According to him, the project strives to inculcate the culture of public participation in matters related to natural resources conservation and management, thereby increasing communities’ capacity to hold government institutions entrusted with the duty to conserve and manage natural resources accountable.
In Mufindi, the project is also implemented in Ihefu, Mwitikilwa, Igombavanu, Ludilo, Nyololo Njiapanda, Uhambila, Isimikinyi, Tambalang’ombe, Ifwagi, Lugodalutari, Mapogoro, Uhambila, Kibada, Idumlavanu and Ikangamwani villages.
So far a total of 2790 women have been trained out of 5270 persons who have been trained for the entire project duration. “This is equivalent to 52.94 percent of people trained from 2013 to date. This large number of women involvement recognizes their significant role in fostering sustainable management of natural resources in their respective villages,” he said.
When passing by laws on natural resources management in the 32 villages, women participated effectively in the process at all stages, said Felista Choga one of Lugoda village council.
“We would like to see the benefits obtained from fees and penalties resulting from permits and offenses imposed under the new bylaws be properly distributed equally toward village development activities such rehabilitation of schools and hospitals,” she added.
It is through wise expenditure of the income generated from natural resources that will encourage community members to participate in conservation initiatives in my village,” she said.
Introduction of modern beekeeping practices to the communities in Iringa and Mufindi districts also involved women. This is because of its less adverse impact toward natural resources conservation.
Women who participated in beekeeping practices were first trained on beekeeping activities including apiaries installation, managing the apiaries, understating favorable seasons for beekeeping activities, harvesting, packing, processing, packaging, and marketing and entrepreneurship of bee products. To ensure that beekeeping activities are actively undertaken LEAT provided beekeepers with 702 modern beehives in the 32 project villages.
Former Iringa district beekeeping officer (DBO) Telesphory Kahatano said the introduction of modern beekeeping practices enabled the involvement of women into beekeeping activities. Women are now champions in beekeeping activities and take initiative to develop themselves through modern beekeeping activities.
Modern beekeeping activities has become the most valuable alternative source of income to the communities especially to women groups. Most of women are now engaging effectively in beekeeping activities hence increasing their income to meet their livelihood demands.
Moreover, Kiwere Hifadhi Mazingira(KIHIMA) is local based conservation group established in Kiwere village comprising of 17 members in which 10 are women and 7 are men, After they participated in natural resources management trainings KIHIMA members saw the need for establishing a trees nursery. The idea behind this initiative was to re afforest the degraded lands at their village.
KIHIMA established a tree nursery comprised of 2500 trees species. Later on tree were planted in the village land where 2.6 to 6 hectares was covered through this initiative.
LEAT believes that, social groups including women and men perceive and interact with natural resources differently. Men or women alone cannot manage natural resources in exclusion of men and youths. Thus, gender inclusiveness during ensures that women and men have equal access to and control over natural resources and receive equal share of the natural resources benefits, said Mnasizu
He explained that gender equity increases ownership to both men and women on natural resources management. Moreover, gender inclusion in Natural Resources Management and Social Accountability Monitoring will not only increase awareness of community members on issues pertaining to Natural Resources Management but also will increase women self-esteem and community appreciation of the role women play in their management and decision making hence enabling them to express freely and ably their views on Natural Resources Management.
Social groups including youth, disabled, women and men should embrace their roles in the society, improve self-esteem, and demand accountability from their duty bearers.
Lawyers Environmental Action Team (LEAT), through citizens engaging in government oversight in natural resource management (CEGO-NRM) is implementing the project which aims at advocating for proper management of natural resources in order to reduce poverty and ensure sustainable conservation of biodiversity. It is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).