TreeSisters is delighted to announce this new women-led, collaborative restoration project in Kasese, Uganda.
From Madeleine Scordellis, Tree Partnerships Manager, TreeSisters
As we implement our new Restoration Strategy, we are excited to partner with and support planting projects that align and reflect its women, nature and community-centred direction. We are therefore delighted to announce a new project in Uganda in collaboration with our longstanding partner, the International Tree Foundation (ITF), and local partner, Alpha Women Empowerment Initiative (AWEI).
Based in the Kasese region of Uganda, this project is centred around promoting inclusive and equitable relationships between women and men and girls and boys as an integral aspect of landscape restoration. It focuses on understanding and responding to the priorities and needs of women and empowering them as leaders in natural resource management through agroforestry. The project is a powerful example of locally-led reforestation with women’s empowerment at its core. It is also an exciting new co-creative endeavour among the three partners, piloting a community-led approach to project design, management and monitoring.
Local partner Alpha Women Empowerment Initiative (AWEI) is a women-led non-profit organisation in the Kasese district of Uganda. Formed in 2009 and led by an all-female executive team and six volunteers, the initiative has 1086 community members engaged with its work. AWEI’s primary goals include engaging women in environmental protection, promoting sustainable agriculture for food security and income generation, promoting women’s skills through vocational training, preventing violence against women and promoting women’s reproductive health.
For TreeSisters, this co-collaborative project presents a significant opportunity to explore the practical meaning of our shift in reforestation direction and explore three key areas of the new Restoration Strategy: women’s empowerment and gender equity; community-led and radical listening approaches to project design and management; and participatory community-led approaches to monitoring and learning. It also allows us to put into practice our commitment to rebalancing power dynamics by developing a collaborative, side-by-side partnership that honours and centres the local organisation that conceived the project for the benefit of the communities it serves. Together, the three partners will be exploring Radical Listening, an approach developed by another TreeSisters partner, Health in Harmony, which focuses on deeply listening to communities in a way that respects community agency and facilitates spaces where communities themselves identify the solutions.
Initially, the project will work with 500 women and 100 girls from four regional villages to plant 20,000 trees and 10,000 bamboo plants. This geographical area is steeply sloped, and mudslides are a significant issue due to soil erosion. This has led to several deaths over the years and issues of flooding on farmers’ lands. The planted trees intend to increase soil fertility, reduce erosion and landslides, provide food and fuel, and generate direct income through agro-forestry initiatives. These trees will also ensure women and community members no longer have to walk long distances to gather firewood.
The project will train 100 vulnerable women and girls in leadership development to support them in assuming responsibilities and decision-making positions. Twenty gender champions will also be trained, who will then be able to reach out to local community groups to promote gender equity across the region and participate in monitoring activities. Furthermore, the project will support sustainable livelihood options for women farmers through training and start-up assistance in the form of seeds, equipment or manure and by reactivating a reusable sanitary pad enterprise set up by Alpha Women to create opportunities for income generation and vocational training for young girls.
The innovative gender aspects of this project, identified by local partner AWEI with the support of ITF, include training for couples on joint planning, budgeting, implementation and benefits sharing in agroforestry initiatives, as well as aiming to reform operating procedures for local conservation and development committees to be more gender equitable. Due to its combined approach of supporting livelihoods, wellbeing, gender equity and environmental needs, this project is vital to the local communities it serves.
Kamalha Annet, Extension Officer for the project, said: “Women will be able to gain more skills. For example, when we’re in the field with some of the farmers, men are supposed to be the ones to plant trees. But nowadays, we are training women to know how to plant them. For example, if someone is a widow, you can train them and learn how to plant trees, not necessarily that men are supposed to be the ones to plant trees.”
For TreeSisters, it is a privilege to have the opportunity to collaborate with this local women-led community organisation which is doing incredible work to support women and trees in a vulnerable area of Uganda. This project is an exceptional opportunity for us to truly walk our talk, radically empowering women and local communities by building on our existing partnership with ITF based on trust and mutual respect, connection and collaboration.
Speaking as the Tree Partnerships Manager at TreeSisters, I am excited and immensely grateful to AWEI and ITF for their trust and willingness to collaborate with us on this project. We are coming to this with the hope of contributing from our experience of women’s empowerment and forest restoration, but, more importantly, with a humble intention to learn from working directly with a local women-led organisation on the ground. We hope to implement its teachings into our new Restoration Strategy and bring forward community and women-led approaches to landscape restoration and gender equity in all our partnerships.