Maasai women upgraded to tackle climate change

10Oct 2019
The Guardian
Maasai women upgraded to tackle climate change

“Why COCOBA and 4/4/2 Should be linked as a New Strategy for Community Climate Action”

By Victoria Lihiru

World leaders, businesses and civil society have met to boost their ambition and actions to address the global climate emergency. The deliberations at the United Nations General Assembly’s climate action summit, reminded me of the women I met last month from Enguserosambu and Sale villages in Ngorongoro district, Arusha Region.

These Maasai women have upgraded their actions to tackle the adverse impact of climate change, by adjusting the famous village Community Banks(VICOBA) to Community Conservation Banks(COCOBA).

The COCOBA members automatically become the champions and keepers of the environment. They receive trainings on the manifestations, and implications of climate change, and guided to co-create local level mitigation and adaptation strategies.

The members are also trained on the basics of conservation laws, encouraged to be on the watch and required to report to the local government authorities when they encounter acts of abuse of forests and water sources.

Because of their passion for environment, some of the COCOBA members have been trusted to be in the local governments ward’s environment committees-ward level decision making organs on the issues of environmental preservation.

Each member of COCOBA commits to plant trees in their household and encourages the neighbors to do the same. The demand for trees is on the increase, leading to some of the COCOBA groups such those from Samunge village to engage in germination of tree seeds and selling of trees.

As addressing climate change also requires change in life style, Enguserusambo and Sale women are adopting local technology for building energy efficient stoves which in turn saves many trees that would otherwise be used as source of cooking energy.

The major successes of COCOBA are witnessed by number of community groups willing to transition from VICOBA to COCOBA or formulate new groups with COCOBA component. Data from Ngorongoro district depicts that more than 500 groups have been registered as COCOBA.

While saving and lending groups such as VICOBA is mostly seen as women enterprises, the COCOBA’s environment keeping component has attracted men too. Men are working together with women on the environmentally friendly economic activities such as beading, leather processing, bee keeping and cultivation of drought resistant crops such as sunflower.

Men install beehives, guard the farms, and source materials for businesses, relieving them from forest exploitation economic activities such as trading on charcoal and wood. While women are still the majority in COCOBA groups making up to 70 per cent, adult men form about 30 percent of these groups.

Despite this initiative, Enguserosambu and Sale women still experience droughts, unreliable rains, hard to manage crop diseases, affecting honey harvests and other agricultural produce. As the world leaders have just met in New York to increase efforts towards addressing climate actions.

A call is made for Tanzanian government to replicate initiatives such as COCOBA to other districts. Working within its current commendable move, where ten percent of the local government’s own source has to be allocated and lent to support the women, youth and people with disabilities’ economic activities on a 4/4/2 basis respectively.

The cross cutting climate emergency should trigger the Local Government Authorities to add a conservation element into the criteria for accessing the 4/4/2 interest free loans. Most of the COCOBA economic activities are funded by non-state actors among others, Oxfam through its local partner PALISEP, GIZ and Frankfurt Zoological Society.

With more than 60 per cent of the Tanzanian population living below the poverty line and thus depending on the 4/4/2 loans, introducing COCOBA component will bring awareness on the realities, effects, adaptation and mitigation measures to a more than half of Tanzania population.

As COCOBA members are tasked to spread climate education and report environmental risk incidences, the ripple effect of intersecting COCOBA and 4/4/2 will see every Tanzanian acting to protect the prestigious mother earth. Under the circumstance where the countries take common but differentiated responsibilities, polluters continue to raise finances, and other dynamics continue to twiddle climate actions, involving everyone within the available community frameworks remains central for the world to strengthen the currently bent backbone of its existence.

Dr. Victoria Lihiru is the Head of Advocacy at Oxfam Tanzania

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