By Ange de la Victoire DUSABEMUNGU
The Albertine Rift Conservation Society (ARCOS) has called on the African Governments to support women’s projects aimed at uplifting community livelihoods and the preservation of the environment.
The call was made on Wednesday, 14th December 2022 during the Africa Mountains Community-to Community-Exchange event, which was organized to celebrate the International Year of Sustainable Mountain Development and the International Mountainn Day celebrated each 11th December.
The event which took place in Kigali brought together more than 200 physical participants representing Nature-Based Community Enterprises from the Africa mountain regions.
Speaking at the event, Dr. Sam Kanyamibwa, the CEO of ARCOS reminded the participating enterprises that the theme for this year’s International Mountain Day (IMD) is ‘Women Move Mountains.’
He said that “Women really move the mountains. If you see how charismatic the mountains are and how women can move those mountains, It’s true to see how important they are in making things work well”
“When we think about how women can move mountains, we think about our mothers or grandmothers and how they are very special. This is why we’re happy to see some of the community representatives here are women! We have the women champions. Of course women move the mountains, but they are suffering also and this is not what we want forever.” Dr. Kanyamibwa said.
“We want this to change. We need support for these women. They need to have our support. They need to be recognised for the role they play;they keep the knowledge, the culture, and this spirit should be given to our children. We need to support them, particularly those who are living in mountainous areas. They face problems like natural disasters, the extreme weather events that are affecting them.” He added
On the other hand, women who are leading Nature Based Community Enterprises have highlighted that there are serious challenges that are preventing them from progressing.
In an interview with TOP AFRICA NEWS, Mrs. Irene Wabule Walimbwa, the Managing Director of AW Bamboo Entreprises based in Uganda, in the Eastern Region said that the biggest challenge that women are facing is lack of funding.
She said that she has started the project to process the edible bamboo and “as time went on, it has grown to piloting the bamboo which has never been done since time immemorial.”
“People used to just go up in the mountains to get bamboo but now the mountain has been turned into a national park and the people were relying on the mountain on food, the bamboo shoots, the mushrooms and the medicines but now, there are some restrictions and this now comes when the population has increased and the land is little.” She explained.
“So there are so many challenges that women are facing. I came up with this project to reduce the challenge of illegal bamboo harvesting, because I am introducing the piloting of bamboo domestication, so that women can grow and harverst their own bamboo, and they can sell and get more money out of it.” Mrs. Wabule said.
“And the communities, the youth, the men, they have now gotten an interest in the project. But the challenges we are facing in the place, where the project is a hard to reach area. Transport is very difficult. Terrain is very difficult and I don’t have funding.” she added.
“Women have been left behind for quite long. And women do not own land. And yet this project needs land and the women do not have money and yet the banks need security. We don’t have collateral security, to give to the banks in order to get the loan to do our businesses. That is why I’m appealing to donor communities to come to our rescue.” Mrs. Wabule spoke on behalf of many women who are facing similar challenges.
Community Representatives who participated in the Africa Mountains Community-to-Community-Exchange event, commended the role of ARCOS in helping them to increase production but also in maintaining and protecting the environment.
Speaking to the media, Mr. Kwitonda Phillipe, the Director General in Charge of Water, Land and Forests in Rwanda’s Ministry of Environment also said that “What is clear is that the mission started with the people themselves.”
“There are different things they have achieved in collaboration with ARCOS, and now ARCOS works with about 30 thousand families, so if they work together like that and in the area of environmental protection, they will achieve a lot.” Mr. Kwitonda said.
“There are various examples, they gave us the examples of the Eastern Province of Rwanda where they have planted up to 400 thousand trees and they are working with different institutions so that they can help us as the Ministry of Environment.” He added.
“We encourage other institutions so that they learn and continue to work together as the Minister said; the environment is life, we are all connected, whether it is a journalist, a farmer, a breeder, or everyone, we are connected to protect the environment because if we protect it, it will protect us.” Mr. Kwitonda said as he was representing Rwanda’s Minister of Environment who didn’t attend due to the conflicting schedule.
This Year’s Africa Mountains Community to Community Exchange event was organized by ARCOS Network with the support from Alinea International that is implementing the Canada’s Climate Action in Africa Project, Members of Africa Regional Mountain Forum, the Government of Rwanda and other partners
Apart from the speeches, the exhibition of mountain products also took place at Kigali Conference and Exhibition Village as an opportunity to promote knowledge sharing in a bid to promote resilience to climate change in the mountain communities.