Chipko is a Hindi word meaning "to hug". The Chipko movement was named after its members who hugged trees to prevent them being felled by foresters. Although the first Chipko workers were men and women, at odds with official forestry policies and mainly concerned with local employment, more and more women joined the movement when they realized that the recurring floods and landslides from which they were suffering were caused by deforestation. When the Forest Department announced an auction of 2500 trees in the Reni Forest overlooking the Alaknanda River, which had already flooded disastrously, one woman- Gaura Devi- organized the women of her village to protect the trees from the company that won the auction. They physically prevented the tree felling, and thus forced the Uttar Pradesh government to investigate. Two years later, the government placed a 10-year ban on all tree felling in the area. After that, women prevented felling in many other forests all along the Himalayas. They have also set up cooperatives to guard local forests, and to organize fodder production at rates that will not harm the trees. Within the Chipko movement, women have joined in land rotation schemes for fodder collection, helped replant degraded land, and established and run nurseries stocked with species they select.
Drought has destroyed much of the vegetation in Cape Verde. Because most of the men work away from the islands, replanting has been left to women and children. With their help, much of the hillsides have been terraced and replanted, and many low-lying sandy areas planted out with shrubs. By the end of the 1970s, women were growing half a million seedlings a year.
All over the world, women have reacted- either spontaneously or through local organizations- to protect forest resources from destruction and to ensure that future supplies will be adequate. In many places, their initiatives have led to the acceptance of new ideas by previously uninterested men.
After the arrival of Hurricane Fifi in 1974, the government called on farmers to replant the destroyed areas. They were surprised but did not object when groups of women showed up to work. The techniques to be used were new to the area, introducing the idea of terracing and reforestation or replanting rather than the traditional shifting agriculture. The men, busy enough growing crops on the valley land, were distrustful of these new ideas but agreed to provide plots of land for the women. Not only did the women succeed in constructing terraces but they also grew, harvested and marketed a series of successful vegetable crops. Eventually, the men began to join in as well. In one area, after four years work, 78 villages had joined the scheme and 1834 farmers worked on it. Of these, 590 were women.
Between 1949 and 1978, China's forested area was expanded from 5 to 12.7 percent of total land area. Most of the work was done by rural communes, and much of it by women. In 1954, for example, women planted a shelter belt along the entire coastline of Kwangtung Province. In this area, men fish and women raise the crops. Women commune members led others in forming tree-planting groups in order to protect their fields from the sand that was regularly blown in from the coast. In China, forestry is well integrated with other economic activities, and most rural Chinese, particularly women, regard tree growing as important as growing other forms of crops.
A project in the Sudan has successfully involved women in forestry work. Village men requesting a windbreak project planned a nursery and other forestry activites. The men were then asked to identify women leaders who, working with trained local women extension workers, established nurseries within their compounds and planted trees around their homes. Some groups have even planted and managed woodlots near their villages.
Seedlings being sorted at a forest nursery in the Mai Sa area as part of a project aimed at introducing settled agroforestry systems to shifting agriculturalists. Women have welcomed agroforestry schemes in many countries as a result of their responsibilities for growing subsistence crops.
In the Republic of Korea, women saw trees as a source of income to finance Mothers' Clubs. To do so, they raised and sold thousands of seedlings, playing a key role in the successful Korean programme to regreen the countryside; use of alternative fuels also led to substantial reductions in the amounts of wood used in cooking.
Kenyan women, through the National Council of Women in Kenya, and the Greenbelt Movement, have played a major role in many forestry schemes in Kenya involving greenbelts, nurseries, the planting of memorial trees, and growing and distributing seedlings for other women's groups to plant.
Inappropriate land use has caused severe soil erosion in Jamaica, and efforts are being made to establish improved forestry and watershed protection schemes. Here women are working in nurseries packing trays with Caribbean pine seedlings. As in other countries, women here have helped persuade men of the virtues of reforestation schemes.
Women transplant seedlings in a nursery in the Upper Solo valley where reforestation programmes aim to provide local populations with new supplies of fuel, timber, fruit and nuts. Population pressure has deprived families of the forest products on which they formerly depended. Many women have begun home gardens which are said to provide as much as 60 percent of the food and fuel they need.