As the world battles to combat climate change to save the earth from destruction, African women have raised their voices against contradictory policies from their governments over land use and resource extraction.
They expressed dismay over governments, who while legislating to deprive communities of their indigenous land with environmental preservation as excuse, turnaround to handover thousands of acres of land to operators in extractives and agro-business, living the people holed-in and incapacitated.
The women who raised their voices at the just ended one-week African Women Climate Assembly held at the Digital Bridge Institute, Lagos, lamented that the contradictory posture of government is making community members homeless and destroying their traditional farming and fishing livelihood.
Leader of the Central Republic of Congo delegation, Marie Dorethee, said the development has seriously diminished land available to her people and increased poverty.
“The land is our livelihood, our supermarket, our hospital but, these policies are forcing us out of existence”.
She lamented that the Congo Basin Forest which serves six African countries and is considered the new, “lung of the world,” as the South American Amazon forest has been depleted by excessive extractive activities and wild fires, is fast losing both size and content.
“We can no longer get our food and medicine from the forests which served our forebears because foreign business interests have overrun the forest, forcing animals to move into human space.
“The Congo Basin is a rich stretch of forest with a variety of animal and plant life from which our people made a living. This is fast disappearing as big businesses scramble to grab land there for extraction of our rich minerals. CDR has every mineral resource you can think of including, gold, diamond, oil, colbat, copper, tin, tantalum, and lithium.
“Everywhere you turn, you see foreign nationals-American, Chinese, Germans, prospecting minerals from our land and government keeps some portion as parks that we cannot access, leaving for us, only very little land. The land is our life and now we are being pushed away; the land is rich but we are poor,” she cried.
Women from Cameroon, another country within the Congo Basin, highlighted that massive acquisition of 60,000 hectares of land for dam project, has pushed elephants out of the forest into human residents.
According to Veronique, the Cameroonian government cut down 2500 of the forest trees and that sent the elephants into communities, destroying properties and crops in the process.
Sia Anne-Marie Kamano from Guinea, also in the rain forest basin, lamented that gold mining has destroyed the livelihood of women and is forcing youths to shun education.
“Before, agriculture and artisanal gold mining were the mainstay of the economy but now, women cannot support their families because they have no access to land. Those whose husbands die in landslides are being forced to take to prostitution.
“There are no jobs, no land for women, no trees, no culture; no food and there is insecurity. Our community is far from Conakry and despite the resource, there are no social amenities-no good hospital but unhealthy environment”.
The women called on the leaders to halt the deforestation of the forest basin to stem climate change, querying the rush to deplete the Congo Basin Forest at a time the world focus is on salvaging what is left of forests and waterways to save the world from catastrophe.
Noting that women are central in environmental issues as they grow food, feed and heal the family from the earth, they demanded that governments must put women ahead of decisions on extraction being impacted by its operations. They also called for access to land and natural seeds for women to ensure their livelihood.
“Government should mainstream women into decision-making, especially, with regards to climate change. Let women drive climate change to make needed change.
“We need land for women, good seeds for food sovereignty. If you have the seed, you have the power. We cannot leave out land. Help women with seeds; if women have seed sovereignty, they will have power and there will be food sovereignty,” the women stated.
The Lagos State government threw its support for the women Assembly with a powerful delegation led by the special adviser to the governor on Climate Change Initiative, Mrs Titi Osooli, who said the San Olu administration’s gender and climate change policies align with the demands of the women. She pledged the support of government to future plans of the African Women Assembly. In the team were Hon Jamiu Odebiyi, supervisor for environment, Mrs Falade Oluwakemi, head of department, Environment, Ojokoro Local Council Area.
Over 150 women from 15 African countries battling with extractives attended the Assembly.