Women Showing the Way – Sustainable Use of Natural Resources Can Improve the Lives of Their Families

August 23, 2017

Posted By Thomas Selänniemi

Rural areas in Tanzania and Zambia struggle with high poverty rates. Forests and trees are providing a livelihood, raising women and their families out of poverty. These two brave women are showing an example, supported by forestry projects that Indufor is implementing.

The Decentralised Forest and other Natural Resources Management Programme in Zambia supports the devolution of rights and responsibilities for the management of forests to the local users, while helping the communities to benefit from improved local control of forest resources. This includes supporting communities to develop enterprises, based on sustainable use of forests and other natural resources, providing an opportunity for promoting local economic development.

Mrs Sampa, Mushroom Collector in Zambia

Increased market awareness has provided opportunities for improving rural household incomes, and women have also eagerly seized this opportunity. One of the success stories comes from Mrs Susan Sampa, a mushroom collector who increased her earnings through improved understanding of markets and traded values of locally available items. Several collectors are now collaborating to supply in bulk to markets thereby avoiding the traders who have only offered to barter items for produce. Rural communities who live with and depend on natural resources for their well-being can now capture more of the traded value of natural products.

With the knowledge gained through our training, Mrs Sampa decided to cut out the middleman by taking her produce directly to a market and earned 500 US dollars through her first sales. Back in her village, she mobilised a few women who collect mushrooms and alerted them to the profitability of local mushrooms in the distant markets. On her second trip, she doubled the quantity and sold at a different market where the mushrooms sales were much better. As a result she earned close to 1 000 US dollars with a small investment in transport and upkeeping.

Mrs Sampa, the proud entrepreneur in front of her house.

With the profit made she bought iron roofing sheets for her house, where she lives with her husband and six children. She also acquired wiring for her house to take advantage of the rural electrification scheme in the area. Through just two sales trips, she has remarkably improved the quality of life for herself and her family.

Mrs Sampa' s products sold on the market.

Mrs Sampa says she would like to work with more women in her village and organise themselves better to take advantage and benefit from the true market value of mushrooms. She also sees good prospects for trade in other natural products from her village and the surrounding area. Through her market experience, she highlights that there are several other natural products, which are equally profitable and in demand at the major markets.

The project will help Susan Sampa and others in her community, through the Market Analysis & Development process, to develop a simple business plan and investigate methods for drying, preservation, and packaging, to increase the value and extend the trading period of the year.

Brave Women’s Group in Tanzania

In Tanzania, the Private Forestry Programme, supports the development of forest plantations value chains and small-holder plantation forestry. Small-holders are organized under Tree Growers’ Associations (TGAs) and more than one third of the TGA members and tree planters are women. This is a good share in the traditionally very male-dominated country and sector.

Extension Officer Grace Wille from Private Forestry Programme having a discussion with Mrs Muhomisoli in Matembwe village.

Among many other things, the programme has supported local TGAs and small enterprise groups in solving their financing problems through village and community banking arrangements. One of the SME groups, the 32-member Brave Women’s Group has raised a good capital among its members and plans to buy a modern double arbor sawmill to replace their old ding dong sawmill.

The Brave Women’s Group has now also applied for a timber allocation from the government plantations. They have heard that the Group's suitability to receive a long-term supply contract will be assessed. Such a response is an achievement already: all previous applications considered by the Tanzanian Forest Service have been from large, internationally backed investment projects.

The Private Forestry Programme will continue supporting the Brave Women’s Group, which is only one example among the women’s groups for business development, individual women entrepreneurs, and tree planters in the Programme's livelihood and business development area.

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Thomas Selänniemi

Head of Natural Resources Management

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