Cameroonian activist wins Wangari Maathai Forest Champions’ Award 2022
Sixth winner of the award announced at the XV World Forestry Congress
Activist Cécile Ndjebet, of Cameroon, won the 2022 Wangari Maathai Forest Champions Award in recognition of her outstanding contribution to preserving forests and improving the lives of people who depend on them.
Presented by the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF), which is chaired by FAO, the award was conferred at a ceremony during the XV World Forestry Congress in Seoul, Republic of Korea.
“This award celebrates Cécile Ndjebet’s energy and dedication over three decades in promoting women’s rights to land and forests. She has actively shown that women’s participation in forest governance and preservation is fundamental to achieving sustainable forest management,” said FAO Deputy Director-General and CPF Chair Maria Helena Semedo.
Championing gender equality
Roughly 70% of women in Cameroon living in rural areas and dependent at least in part on harvesting wild forest products for their livelihoods, yet in some communities women are denied the right to own forest land, inherit it if their husband dies or even to plant trees on degraded land.
Ndjebet has tirelessly promoted the concept that women should be involved in forest management and have equal rights to forest land and resources - and that when they do, forests are better preserved and entire communities benefit.
Through the African Women’s Network for Community Management of Forests, which she co-founded in 2009, Ndjebet has become a leading voice, both in Cameroon and internationally, in building global recognition on the importance of gender equality in forest management. The organisation now has 20 member countries across Africa.
Ndjebet has long been a driving force in implementing forestry law and good governance in Cameroon and establishing a new approach on community forestry and the restoration of degraded lands and forests through Cameroon Ecology (Cam-Eco), which she founded in 2001. Cam-Eco has worked to inform, train and support women to understand sustainability issues and to get involved in forest conservation and restoration.
About the Wangari Maathai Forest Champions Award
Established by the Collaborative Partnership on Forests in 2012 in memory of Kenyan environmentalist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai, the Forest Champions Award recognises inspiring individuals who have helped preserve, restore and sustainably manage forests.
Maathai’s Green Belt Movement is an environmental organization that empowers communities, and particularly women, to conserve the environment and improve livelihoods. The movement has planted over 51 million trees in Kenya. This spirit is revived through the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030, a rallying call for the protection and revival of ecosystems all around the world, for the benefit of people and nature.
Along with international recognition and prestige, the recipient of the Forest Champions Award is granted a cash prize of USD20,000 and travel support to participate in the award ceremony.
Nominations are reviewed by a panel of renowned forestry experts, from research to politics, who will also consider the nominees’ efforts in empowering women, youth and civil society, fostering social commitment, promoting networks and improving the visibility and socio-cultural value of forests.
Previous Wangari Maathai Forest Champion Award winners are Nepalese community forestry movement leader Narayan Kaji Shrestha (2012), Mexican environmental campaigner Martha Isabel ‘Pati’ Ruiz Corzo (2014), Ugandan forestry activist Gertrude Kabusimbi Kenyangi (2015), Brazilian forestry activist Maria Margarida Ribeiro da Silva (2017), Burundian forestry activist Léonidas Nzigiyimpa (2019) and Cameroonian activist Cécile Ndjebet (2022).