The United Nations’ International Day of Rural Women is observed on October 15. It is followed by the World Food Day (October 16) and the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty (October 17). The relationship between rural women, food security and eradication of poverty are inter-twinned and a central concern in many Model Forests world-wide.
Model Forests play an important role in improving the standard of living of rural women and supporting them in producing more food for their community. For example, families in Ifrane Model Forest in Morocco received energy-efficient stoves that allowed women to bake bread, heat a room, cook meals and heat water all at the same time. Since they spend less time collecting firewood, they can now spend more time with young children, especially on their education and for cultural and income generating activities.
To share knowledge on which traditional NTFPs are used and how, women and men within model forests produced two “cultural” recipe books: “Survival in Samiland” and “The International Model Forest Network Recipe Book”.
Model forests have helped foster female entrepreneurship in many countries. For example, Cameroon’s Model Forests actively promote the organization and leadership of rural women. In recent years, more than 90 micro-projects focusing on business development, marketing and product development were financed through the Model Forests. Some local products such as Allanblankia oil, used in manufacturing food and non-food products have been able to access international markets. Generating social and economic value from natural resources has also improved conservation efforts.
In the Campo-Ma’an Model Forest, in southern Cameroon, the traditional extraction of oils from tree nuts was integrated into a new value-added economic activity – soap production. The Model Forest used a self-selected entrepreneurial development model to introduce women to making soap. Women learned how to make body and household soaps from a teaching guide developed by Cuso International. Empowering women and men to make and market soap supports the African Model Forest Network’s mission to build people’s capacity to positively transform the landscape around them and enhance their economic sustainability.
Most Model Forests are or have been involved in economic activities that support communities, livelihoods and reduce poverty. Such activities include promoting eco-cultural tourism, bieoenergy, certification of forest products, and cultivation and marketing of non-timber forest products (NTFPs). Many such activities involve Indigenous Peoples, women and youth.
For example, growing saffron in Morocco has contributed to protecting biodiversity and alleviating poverty by improving the income levels of the local population.
In Chili’s Panguipulli Model Forest, Mapuche women are developing community-based tourism where visitors connect with rural and Indigenous communities while being lodged in local homes. The host communities control how many tourists enter the region, and will only take on as many guests as their housing and energy resources can comfortably accommodate, fostering sustainable use and collective responsibility. They are the architects of a more ecologically based tourism, built from the people, their environment, their culture, their thoughts and actions.
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