Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?
Across West Africa and particularly in Nigeria, unsustainable land practices and increasingly climatic change are leading to environmental degradation and loss of livelihoods, impoverishing communities who depend on natural resources and farming for survival. Despite the extent of climate-related threats, developmental planning in Nigeria often takes limited, if any, account of the risks of climate change for communities. Women are particularly vulnerable heading forward, as they represent nearly 70% of rural farmers and hold primary responsibility for harvesting wood as well as farming for subsistence and income generation for their families.
Due to family responsibilities, lack of skills, and social and cultural barriers, women struggle to find sustainable economic solutions to escape poverty. They are instead reliant on the informal sector as petty traders or subsistence farmers, without access to the finance and technology needed to create enterprises. In addition, women’s positioning in society means they are excluded from public discussions, policy formulation or implementing solutions. They are left unable to improve their livelihoods and future resilience, vulnerable and dependent on their spouses for economic power and bargaining. However in other geographies and sectors it has been demonstrated that empowering women is a key lever for changing communities and lifting whole families out of poverty sustainably.
Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!
For over 15 years, Priscilla has merged her concern for rural women’s rights and economic empowerment in Nigeria, with preserving the natural environment. Through Women’s Environmental Programme (WEP), Priscilla has rolled out multi-level strategies to empower women, increase their economic livelihood, and affect policy change. Priscilla puts women at the forefront of environmental change and equips them with the resources and skills needed to develop income streams from this change.
Priscilla’s mission is to alleviate poverty by allowing women to have a voice in their communities, giving them professional training and access to economic power. Her model connects rural women to credit and enables them to start small and medium size environmental enterprises. WEP is facilitating the formation of women’s co-operatives, which can gain access to credit in the forms of loans or government subsidies, and procure energy-saving machinery and appropriate technology solutions to improve their communities’ mitigation and resilience to climate change. In particular, Priscilla has partnered with researchers to develop a solar dryer technology appropriate for rural Africa. This technology enables large quantities of excess perishable crops—tomatoes, peppers, oranges and other locally grown vegetables—to be dried during peak production periods whilst maintaining their nutritional value, providing food security during droughts, and scalable income streams to escape poverty. Her solution also trains these women farmers on the usage, maintenance and repair of solar energy equipment to ensure sustainability. She is now piloting local production of the solar dryer as a first step to creating a women-led renewable energy micro-industry in rural Nigeria.
This model will be rolled out for other rural enterprises and environmental technology solutions, now also including biomass briquette production tools. Briquettes are a sustainable alternative to wood fuel, allowing waste materials to be processed and burnt efficiently for cooking etc with net zero carbon emissions. By putting women at the forefront of sustainable business, Priscilla is making them into grassroots leaders of change. Rural women are spearheading environmental management in their communities, ensuring their indigenous knowledge of farming will be combined with technical and business know-how which will be passed through their communities and on to future generations of farmers.