Tanzania: New Initiative to Save Forests Aims at Empowering Women

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By Meddy Mulisa

Bukoba — Dativa Kaimukirwa (24) looks knackered but manages to smile as she speaks to reporters outside her hut at Rukoma village, in Bukoba Rural district.

She is in a group of women who have benefitted from a project to access improved stoves. A few years ago Kaimukirwa and her family could grow their own food and had enough to eat. But following the prolonged dry spell food stocks have diminished and they are surviving on one meal a day.

A mother of four, Kaimukirwa ekes a living doing menial jobs including farm work. In the morning she prepares food for her children before they dash off to school, after which she heads to collect firewood.

She spends up to three hours a day looking for firewood. Rampant tree felling has worsened the situation. There are no more trees left around. Women have to spend many hours looking for firewood.

Their efforts are consuming huge chunks of their working hours, making life harder for them and their families. Some men still find it hard to help women looking for firewood or cooking because of their traditional beliefs. Men believe that this kind of business is exclusive to women.

In an effort to encourage men to help with house chores, an NGO-Foundation for Energy, Climate and Environment (FECE), is talking to communities, men in particular, about the importance of sharing housework.

The NGO recently distributed improved stoves to households in Bukoba Rural district. Most of the beneficiaries are women. Over 160,000 people in ten villages in Bukoba Rural district are accessing improved stoves which are friendly to the environment.

FECE Executive Director, Esther Kibona named the villages to include Kaibanja, Kazinga, Kiijongo and Nyakigando in Kaibanja ward, Rukoma, Nsheshe and Bituntu (Rukoma ward), Kishanje, Bumai and Bushasha Kishanje ward).

Apart from the improved stoves people were also being educated on importance of environmental management by running tree nurseries. About One million seedlings were produced and distributed to the farmers.

Fatuma Kaimukirwa (34), from Nsheshe village thanked FECE for the timely intervention adding that most women had benefitted through the project by planting trees in the surrounding environment. The work log and time used in fetching firewood had been reduced by getting improved stores. Random felling of trees is now history.

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