Empowering women to reduce threats on dry forests

Posted on 14 February 2011
Hiking in the spiny forest
© WWF / Franziska Peuser
From 2003 to 2005, WWF supported girls’ scholarship program in order to give them an opportunity to finish primary school. For the next phase, the project focused on girls and young women who have alreeady finished school and who play a key role in natural resources consumption.

WWF selected women in five villages of the Rural District of Beahitse, located around Tsimanampesotse National Park, in the Plateau Mahafaly. The main objective was to empower these women in order to reduce the threats and pressures on the dry forests. Lack of information and education of the local population are big problems in this region.

Literacy classes for women started in July 2009. The registration to literacy courses was free but the learners were asked to contribute to the monthly salary of the teachers. 247 women, from the age of 15 to 45 registred and were very keen to get startet despite their load of household chores and the starvation in the region. Literacy teachers as well as learners often walk many kilometers to reach the literacy centers, shwoing just how much these classes mean to them.

247 women have learnt the basic techniques for reading, writing and calculating. They are able to write their name and to read and sign a document. They are very proud to read the bible and sing hymns at church. The women also learnt about various subjects aiming at their personal development such as: management of funds, stock management, marketing…

The girls'scholarship programme ended  in June 2010. However, the women had asked the project’s support to continue classes, at least until December. From 2011, becoming more confident and more motivated, the learners have decided to pay 500 Ariary per month each (about 20 cents) to cover the salary of the literacy teacher and continue to improve their knowledge.

"I can finally send a letter to my family!"

In collaboration with the social organisers, the women went on with the promotion of improved stoves in the neighbouring villages. The project has helped them to repair damaged stoves and build new ones for new households. One hundred women were ready to locally manufacture this kind of stoves with locally collected materials. The literate women managed to build 820 improved stoves for the 814 households of the project’s five target villages. Besides, the promotion of the improved stove extends to eight other villages and 141 new households now use it. Improved stoves are a crucial factor in conserving the unique spiny forest in the area since the use a lot less wood that traditional stoves.

Women also started to create their own garden and fuel wood plantation because they had received training on agro-forestry. They had a installed tree nursery that produced 9.000 young seedlings of fruits trees and some indigenous species last year. The objective of this family plantation is that, in a short term, products from their plantation will help them to provide food for their families during famine and in a longer term, products will be used as fuel wood in order to reduce forest resources consumption.

In July 2010, the literate women have created women’s associations aiming at
(i) putting into practice the newly acquired knowledge in agro-forestry or in various management techniques
(ii) achieving income-generating activities.
Seven associations were created. The project had reinforced their capacity in management in general.
Hiking in the spiny forest
© WWF / Franziska Peuser Enlarge