Ecosystem restoration is reversing degradation of ecosystems, e.g. forest landscapes, mangroves, watersheds, dry lands- to regain their functionality for the people and for the planet.    

More than 75 percent of Earth’s land areas are substantially degraded, undermining the well-being of 3.2 billion people, according to the World’s first Comprehensive, Evidence-based Assessment. These lands that have either become deserts, are polluted, or have been deforested and converted to agricultural land. If this trend continues, 95 percent of the Earth’s land areas could become degraded by 2050. That would potentially force hundreds of millions of people to migrate, as food production will collapse in many places. However, rapid expansion and unsustainable management of croplands and grazing lands is the main driver of land degradation, causing significant loss of biodiversity and impacting food security, water purification, the provision of energy, and other contributions of nature essential to people. This has reached “critical levels” in many parts of the world. Underlying drivers of land degradation; the high-consumption lifestyles in the most developed economies, combined with rising consumption in developing and emerging economies, continued population growth in many parts of the world, are driving unsustainable levels of agricultural expansion, natural resource and mineral extraction, and urbanization.

We’ve known about this for over 20 years but it is only getting worse. how about we trying out some approaches which have been neglected in the quest to restore degraded ecosystems such as Gender-responsive restoration, since gender gaps persist, pervade across sectors: women’s knowledge, needs, priorities, experiences, capacities still undervalued and ignored, roles and responsibilities are differentiated between men and women. Women tend to have fewer livelihood alternatives due to sociocultural barriers consequently, access, control and benefits remain wildly inequitable, while impacts of degradation affect those already vulnerable most acutely (women).

Have we ever thought that Women’s empowerment and gender equality makes a difference for restoration?

Women and men contribute differently to restoration options and value benefits differently – opening new possibilities for restoration, therefore, could be a crucial opportunity for women’s economic empowerment. Gender-responsive restoration secure land and resource rights, moving ecosystem restoration towards more sustainable livelihoods, ecosystem management & outcomes while ensuring a climate resilient earth.

Taking restoration to another level, and ensuring sustainable results of ecosystem restoration, we must conduct gender analysis, ensure equitable decision making, improve land and resource rights, partner with women, collect disaggregated data and use gender indicators, facilitate dialogue on access, control, grievance mechanisms develop gender-responsive policies and plans, exchange knowledge, share information. Both women and men must have equal say in all decision making, restoration efforts must reflect the priorities, interests and knowledge of both women and men.

How we are applying this

The award winning NGO, Environment and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF) is currently carrying out ecosystem restoration activities on the Mt Bamboutos, in its flagship project, Mount Bamboutos Initiative. This Mountain was once one of the richest mountain biodiversity hotspots in Africa. It is also the second highest water tower in Cameroon which has nearly been completely degraded. In the quest to carrying out restoration activities in the Mt Bamboutos landscape, gender analysis is carried out to make sure at least 50% of the local population taking part in this process are women and youths, who are the most vulnerable. Women and youths are involved in decision making, public consultation meetings, economic empowerment and many more aspects concerning the restoration process.  

Mrs.Tacuzine Brigitte is one of the most active women as far as the Mount Bamboutos Initiative. She is one of the women leaders in her native Femmouck village, in the West region of Cameroon. To her women voices need to be heard in all aspects of human endeavor. She mobilizes women to actively take part in the Mount Bamboutos Imitative in her village like no one. “this is one of the ways we make our voices heard. We are the most affected as far as the degradation of the Mount Bamboutos is concerned. Crops yields are falling drastically, due to the degradation of this mountain. We have to take the lead in it’s restoration”

Ndoh Agness is another woman who is so passionate about the Mount Bamboutos initiative. To her, the coming of the Mount Bamboutos Initiative to village, Buchi, in the Northwest Region of Cameroon is serving as an eye opener to the women folk. She is the leader of the women folk of her village. “Mount Bamboutos is like a religion to us” Ndoh Agness said. She continued “This project has drawn the women folk of my village closer than ever before. We are now aware of how crucial we the women folk are, as far as the restoration of the Mount Bamboutos is concerned”

The Environment and Rural Development Foundation has continued to train women around the Mount Bamboutos landscape on sustainable agricultural practices such as agroforestry. With support from Trees for the Future, the Environment and Rural Development Foundation is gradually transforming the lives of those living around Mount Bamboutos through the introduction of the Forest Gardens Programme. Barren lands are gradually being transformed into productive lands. Crops are much more diversified and soil fertility is gradually being improved.

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