Forestería en las tierras secas

Two promising cases of digital entrepreneurship empowering women in the forest sector


Traditionally women play a vital role in the forest sector, often carrying out the lion’s share of foraging for food in forests and firewood collection. Now, women entrepreneurs are using technology to elevate women’s role in forestry, improve their livelihoods and empower communities of rural women.

However, one of the challenges facing women in the forestry sector is a limited access to financial and digital resources, which prevents women from taking a larger role in forestry entrepreneurship. This is particularly relevant in developing countries. As a response to this critical challenge, a side event of 67th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women and in celebration of International Women’s Day and its theme: “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality”, FAO held an event to promote women entrepreneurship and digital gender equality in forestry.

The event was a chance to hear from two women entrepreneurs who are supported by FAO programmes, highlighting the positive impact of digital solutions for women’s entrepreneurship and empowerment in the forest sector.

Delphine Ahoussi spoke about the organisation leads, the Association of Women Producers and Traders of Secondary Forest Products (MALEBI), based in Cote d’Ivoire. An entirely women-led enterprise, operating in a sector heavily dominated by men, MALEBI challenges illegal production and restrictive gender norms. Thanks to an agreement with the government of Côte d’Ivoire, MALEBI offers an agroforestry rehabilitation solution that combines the production of legal charcoal with plantations of Tek, Cassia Siamea and food crops in the Ahua gazetted forest.

Delphine described in detail the process MALEBI uses to produce charcoal according to sustainable methods, which includes using blockchain technology for full traceability. MALEBI’s activities are based on a participatory approach, aimed at developing local capacities. The driving idea is to identify, alongside the communities, the challenges and issues specifically related to women’s participation in the management of forest resources, with a view to offer relevant tools to promote gender equality and empower local populations, including through the access to technological innovations. 

Through her organisation’s impressive progress, Delphine showed us in a concrete manner how digital technology has the power to foster female leadership and increase gender equality in forest entrepreneurship.

FAO Forestry Officer Fidaa Haddad gave an overview of WeCaN, FAO’s Community of Practice for women. With 200 members, WeCaN is a mechanism of women’s empowerment in dryland regions to connect South-South practices and policies through mentorship, knowledge sharing, learning opportunities and co-outlined advocacy actions, focusing on South-South knowledge exchange. She then introduced Kenza Benmoussa, WeCaN’s focal point for Morocco and founder of a 100% digital start-up dedicated to assisting businesses on their path to ecological responsibility and sustainability.

Kenza Benmoussa spoke about her business “Now or Never”, which produces low-tech gamification tools to reduce carbon footprint from branding to organization of business events. ‘Now or Never’ also offers digital skills training to both women and men to enable them to enter the workforce. For Kenza, it is vital to engage the private sector in the fight against climate change to achieve sustainable solutions. ‘Now or Never’ aims to create a positive and lasting impact on the environment while also helping corporates to build a more inclusive and digitally savvy workforce.

She also highlighted the huge potential that digital solutions to empower women in the forest sector. Women now have an amazing opportunity to access knowledge and resources that were previously out of reach, access to finances and market their products globally – although, as she said, there is still progress to be made!

FAO Forestry Division’s Deputy Director Ewald Rametsteiner opened the event by outlining some of the immense opportunities that technology offers to address development and humanitarian challenges. He added that the FAO Forestry fully supports the development of digital solutions to encourage and assist women entrepreneurs to make their forest businesses secure, visible and sustainable for them and their communities.  Gerardo Segura Warnholtz, FAO’s Senior Forestry Officer, closed the event by thanking both Delphine and Kenza for their contributions and for using technology so wisely and for such great causes.

The event highlighted exactly why it is so important to increase women’s access to digital technology for women. The more women entrepreneurs there are, the better the world will be – for all of us.

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