5 Ways Planting Trees Helps Gender Equality

Meaghan Weeden | March 7, 2022 | 5 min read

how reforestation can combat climate change and support gender equality

As the world works to address climate change, gender equality and closing the gender gap is increasingly part of the conversation. And as a reforestation nonprofit that empowers women through many of our projects around the world, we have a unique perspective on the subject. From creating sustainable income to improving the standing of women in their communities, we’ve seen time and time again how planting trees and empowering women naturally converge.

Although it may not seem obvious at first, the connection between healthy forests and women is a deeply rooted one. Trees provide a foundation for life to flourish almost everywhere they grow. They’re nature’s nurturers, creating and protecting habitat by absorbing and slowly releasing water into the air, cooling and shading their immediate surroundings, shielding communities from powerful winds and storm surges, growing nutritious food for people and wildlife, and so much more.

In the same way, women provide a foundation for their families and communities with their innate ability to nurture, hold space, protect, heal, teach and build. Women are naturally attuned to the needs of the collective, and this makes them great leaders, teachers, healers and more. And the science shows that this special care extends to the natural world as well: 17 studies from around the world identified significant improvements in natural resource governance and conservation when women participated.

Here are 5 Specific Ways that planting trees can Help Improve Gender Equality

When trees are thoughtfully planted, they can help improve gender equality and women’s rights in ways that are both obvious and subtle. Read on to learn about some of the ways that trees can help support women. 

south africa women reforestation

1. Elevating women's voices in decision-making

For any reforestation project to succeed over the long-term, community buy-in is a necessity. To ensure this, our planting partners work with local communities to provide education and resources that empower them to participate in planting — and improve their lives. Statistically, men tend to be more interested in tree species that provide income, while women are more interested in food-bearing and medicinal species. The best plantings are often a balance of the two. Right from the beginning, then, reforestation can promote gender equality by listening to women's needs and harnessing their local knowledge. By having a say in the process, they're able to help inform the best tree species to plant, areas to plant in, and more — all with the goal of providing for their families. 

rwanda mother seedlings

2. Reducing food insecurity

Despite the fact that rural women account for nearly 1/2 the agricultural workforce in developing countries, agricultural gender inequalities are very prevalent. Patriarchal norms mean that women farmers are particularly at risk of hunger, especially when climate change fueled droughts and floods dry up crops or damage infrastructure. When women are empowered with sustainable forest crops, they have access to better-quality diets, more resources and opportunities through new income streams, and increased agency. Particularly in the case of sustainable agroforestry projects, planting food trees directly benefits the women farmers that participate. When the trees begin producing fruit, they can help their families and communities consistently meet their caloric needs with nutritious food. 

reforestation tree planting event young volunteers

3. Creating educational opportunities for women and girls

Reforestation can lead both directly and indirectly to education for women and girls. Directly, our planting partners often provide training and environmental education to participating community-members on topics ranging from proper tree care and long-term maintenance to sustainable agroforestry best practices and business 101. Many of our projects also make a point of involving local youth in reforestation so that they can learn more about taking care of nature and the environment — and learn new skills that may inspire them to choose a conservation career. In a less obvious but no less powerful way, increased household income and improved food security can help girls (generally the first to be pulled out of school when resources are scarce) stay in school, changing the trajectory of their lives.

rwanda community nursery

4. Reducing migration out of rural areas

As mentioned before, in rural communities around the world, women statistically do the majority of the housework and agricultural labour. Rural migration into urban areas, most often undertaken by men, only serves to widen this gender labor gap. When men leave, women are left to shoulder their responsibilities, too. Reforestation, particularly sustainable agroforestry, has been shown to reduce the need for rural dwellers to leave their homes in search of opportunities in urban areas. This improves women's lives directly by reducing the burden of labor they must shoulder, and indirectly with improved social cohesiveness.

woman working at nursery reforestation

5. reducing climate change impacts

Women make up an estimated 70% of the world’s poor, and this unfortunately puts them on the front lines of climate change. Thanks to the ability of trees to absorb carbon and pollutants, improve ecosystem resilience, shield coastal communities from storm surges, reduce temperatures and more, reforestation has been named a #1 climate change solution. Planting trees, then, directly benefits women, who make up a disproportionate percentage of the world’s most vulnerable population. As the trees grow, they help protect against natural disasters like floods, hurricanes and droughts (all of which are amplified by climate change). 

rwanda women seedlings nursery smile

Ready to take action for Gender equality and climate change resilience?

Women are disproportionately affected by climate change, but research proves that educating girls and empowering women are key climate change solutions. Reforestation, when undertaken thoughtfully with consideration for gender equality, can pack a powerful punch of restoring degraded ecosystems, absorbing carbon and empowering women at the same time. Plant trees today for a greener, more equitable world!

Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most

Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most

As the need for reforestation is global and ever-changing, we feature where trees are most needed now. This project is currently supporting AFR100, the African Forest Landscape Initiative. Learn more

With your help, we will:

  • Provide jobs to minimize poverty in local communities
  • Improve climate change resilience & mitigation
  • Restore forest cover to improve food security
  • Africa is home to the world's second-largest tropical rainforest. The Congo Basin is home to 60% of the continent's biodiversity. However, unfortunately, Africa is alarmingly at risk due to the current deforestation rate - which is 4 times the global deforestation rate. Not only does this threaten the livelihoods of its local communities, but it also affects the planet as a whole.
    Thanks to AFR100, Africa is on a mission to reverse these trends and restore 100 million hectares of land by 2030. This country-led effort will bring 100 million hectares of land in Africa into restoration by 2030. This initiative aims to accelerate restoration to enhance food security, increase climate change resilience and mitigation and combat rural poverty. This includes 32 participating countries in Africa, along with local communities, national governments, public and private sector partners, and international development programs.
  • Planting trees in Africa reaps multiple benefits! Notably, reforestation here will help to add nutrients to the soil and control erosion, minimize poverty within local communities through the creation of jobs, and improve food security by feeding impoverished families through the planting of fruit trees. Ultimately, added forest cover in this region will diminish pressure on remaining forests, allowing for biodiversity to flourish and ultimately helping with the global climate crisis.
  • A personalized tree certificate (see gallery) to say thanks for your donation. We'll also send you updates about this project, so you can track the impact your trees are having on the community and environment.
  • We will plant an array of indigenous tree species throughout Africa, such as Senegalia polyacantha, Faidherbia albida, Albizia adianthifolia, Persea americana, Calliandra calothyrsus, Macadamia spp., shea, and mahogany. Fruit trees will also be planted, which include mango, orange, tangerine, avocado, apple, guava, and Brazil nut.

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