Involving the grassroots in the management of our environment

The first session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) has Sustainable Development Goals and the post 2015 development agenda as its overarching theme. ACORD hosted an official Greenroom side event on the importance of involving the grassroots level in the management of our environment. This happened on 24 June in the form of a panel discussion. Panellists were Fatou Mbaye, ACORD Livelihood Thematic Manager; Jackson Kiplagat, Governance Advisor in WWF and Getrude Kenyangi Kabusimbi from Support for Women in Agriculture and Development (SWAGEN).

A concerted global effort to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) has contributed to remarkable achievements including dramatic declines in extreme poverty, infant mortality and diseases. However, the MDGs have missed out on several crucial dimensions of development including climate change. Consequently, Rio +20 emphasized three critical dimensions for the successor framework; poverty reduction, advancement of social equity and environmental protection on an ever more crowded planet. In his remarks, Jackson Kiplagat emphasized  the interdependence of communities with their natural environment, for example water, land and trees for energy; and therefore its link to poverty reduction.

What lessons for the Sustainable Development Goals / post 2015 framework

"For ACORD it is vital that any framework which speaks on issues of poverty and sustainable development must be informed by those who experience them on a daily basis", said Fatou Mbaye in her presentation.

ACORD has just finalized grassroots consultations with citizens in 13 countries of its operations on their aspirations and needs for the successor framework.  The outcomes of the consultations carried out through citizens driven workshops revealed that for grassroots communities which are predominantly rural, access to productive resources is intimately tied to environmental change and resource use.  A common thread across the workshops was of communities whose livelihoods depend on natural resources, and in which intensive development, overpopulation, intensive commercial farming and resource extraction are putting massive pressures on their sustainable management. For many who are small holder farmers, if small-scale food production is to be supported to realise its potential in securing livelihoods and prosperity, then this must also mean that natural resources are protected and managed sustainably.

Women in particular expressed the fact that it is them more than men who often play the role of conserving and managing the natural resources on which their communities depend. It is women who often restore woodland, collect products from forests, and manage water supplies. As they have less access to financial resources and land, they are also more dependent on these resources.

Concentrate on grassroots, espcially women

The central role of women as key users of natural resources was echoed by Gertrude Kenyangi in her remarks: She came with a strong appeal to concentrate on the grassroots, especially women:

"Women's access to and control of natural resources is critical for their economic security and for the economic security of their children and husbands. When women own and control their own assets, they have more independence and a bigger role in decision-making in their households and communities. It will help improve the strength and prosperity of societies. "

In conclusion: Involving the grassroots is not an act of charity but a precondition for reducing poverty and solving environment challenges.

Download presentation by Fatou Mbaye, ACORD
Download remarks by Gertrude Kenyangi, SWAGEN

Photo by ACORD: Training on soil fertility management in Mauritania

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