Women’s Climate Centers: A Network for Community Resilience by Climate Wise Women/WCCI
Women-led, one-stop climate change solution centers for the co-creation of holistic adaption approaches with vulnerable communities.
The 2018 UNDP Climate Change Adaptation in Africa assessment reads, “At a fundamental level, climate change will interact with baseline stresses that...are the primary drivers of vulnerability and poverty.” The report identifies diversified incomes, greater access to water and climate resilient agriculture techniques, better climate change information and stronger institutions with training, tools and technology, as key solutions to the challenges that Africa faces as the impacts of climate change become more acute.
In response, The Women’s Climate Centers concept was developed from self-evaluation by rural women in Kakamega, Kenya conducted by WCCI team member Rose Wamalwa with Women’s Water and Natural Resources Conservation.
The Women’s Climate Centers utilizes the National Parks system as an economic model to offer revenue-generating activities at Women’s Climate Centers in rural population centers to subsidize smaller centers in more remote areas, increasing access to skill sharing and knowledge transfer throughout East Africa. The physical centers will include training classrooms and on site demonstration areas for bio-intensive farming; composting and carbon capture; water sanitation and hygiene technologies and cook stove assembly. The Centers are carbon neutral spaces that are women-led and women-owned. They address the interconnected impacts of climate change in vulnerable communities and emphasize low-cost environmentally appropriate technologies, advocacy and leadership.
Establishing physical sites consolidates rural women’s leadership and provides needed leverage for effective advocacy and influence with government and business stakeholders. As Dr. Everett Rogers wrote in his landmark book, Diffusion of Innovations,”…people follow the lead of other people they know and trust…to spread innovation.” Permanent spaces where communities develop their own solutions to climate change impacts are essential to building long-term resilience.
Is this proposal for a practice or a project?
What actions do you propose?
A site for the inaugural Women’s Climate Center has been identified in Tororo, Uganda, where one of WCCI’s team leads, rural farmer Constance Okollet, has mobilized women’s groups in the county since 2007. This site was selected because of the existing high level of community engagement and commitment to addressing climate change impacts with locally appropriate, low-cost solutions. WCCI’s US and African team leads will work together to prepare a high-level business plan for successful Center operations, an essential step towards achieving both our training mission and sufficient revenue generation for the Center to be revenue-neutral by Year Three, profitable by Year Five. The business plan gives our team a blueprint for communication with the social impact investors we seek to attract to our mission, acknowledging that a diverse funding strategy ensures long-term sustainability for our network. A communications and marketing plan will be prepared to guide the growth and development of the Center. Co-creation of Center design with the Tororo community is a primary building block of the development process.
In Year Two, WCCI will be in final phases of infrastructure development, including completed demonstration areas and equipment. The Center will be operational with workshops to be offered in technical training on clean energy, tree planting, low cost appropriate technologies for water treatment and waste sanitation, bio-intensive climate-smart agriculture and entrepreneurship and advocacy for women and girls. Trainings will be led by the WCCI African team in the local language and will be supplemented by additional African trainers in areas generated by community demand. We will expand our community engagement activities and marketing efforts to increase our local visibility and impact.
It should be noted that WCCI principals have been leading climate resilience trainings for rural women in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania for ten years and that their work is on-going as the Centers as being developed.
Once Phase One has been successfully completed and proof of concept for the Women’s Climate Center is achieved, there are several avenues to scale. In Years Four and Five we plan to complete two additional centers in locations in Kenya and Uganda where our team is already at work. The revenue generated from these Centers will provide funding for future centers in more remote areas where women’s groups are interested to reproduce the trainings and technologies of the Centers in local spaces that are available to them. Existing brick-and-mortar women’s centers in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania that also want to replicate the WCCI model and are willing to collaborate in our mutually beneficial financial model, i.e., centers with higher revenue-generation potential subsidize smaller ones, will also be able to join the WCCI network. While there is great potential for scale, Women’s Climate Centers will proceed at the speed of trust within communities and within the network to insure the most successful outcomes. An annual symposium for representatives from the Women’s Climate Centers groups will provide on-going training and professional support.
Who will take these actions?
- Rosemary Atieno, the CEO of Community Mobilization for Positive Empowerment. She has been recognized by Care Kenya for exemplary contribution in community work and conducted programs for Kenya’s Ministries of Agriculture, Education, Gender and Social Services, World Vision, Plan International and Concern Worldwide. ?Project lead for bio-intensive farming for good and economic security.
- Godliver Businge, co-founder and director of the Uganda Women’s Water Initiative. She graduated at the top of her class at St Joseph’s Technical Institute with a degree in civil engineering and has been covered by Reuters for breaking through societal stereotypes in her accomplishments. ?Project lead for climate-smart water sanitation and hygiene.
- Hajra Mukasa, co-founder of Uganda Women’s Water Initiative holds a Masters in Public Health and served as a delegate to the Women in Public Service Institute, an initiative launched by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Project lead for land acquisition, infrastructure development, leadership and entrepreneurship.
- Constance Okollet, leader Osukuru United Women Network, a collective of over 1200 rural women organizing for community resilience. Constance is an international spokeswoman for the women and communities most affected by climate change. Project lead for community outreach, development and donor relations
- Rose Wamalwa, founder of Women in Water and Natural Resources Conservation. She was cited as one of Eight African WASH Women to Watch, alongside Liberian President Ellen Sirleaf, and is an IREX Community Solutions Fellow, a program sponsored by the US State Department. Project lead for environmental conservation and restoration.
- Eve Thompson, the founder and director of FemPo.net. Since 2001, she has held Country Director posts with Pact Nigeria and Care International to promote democracy and good governance in Africa. Eve also served as director for the United Nations University’s International Leadership Academy in Amman, Jordan. ?Project lead on legal issues and advocacy.
- US partners, Sarah Diefendorf (EFC West), Tracy Mann (Climate Wise Women) and Suzanne York (Transition-Earth), have over twenty years of international experience in training on leadership, communications, entrepreneurship, finance and advocacy; support and research for women’s empowerment, human rights, consumption, alternative economies, and the environment; and public relations and marketing strategies. They lead on business plan training, grant writing, marketing and communications.
Where will these actions be taken?
Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, with potential for further expansion both in Africa and internationally. The Women’s Climate Centers will be established in secure rural locations with good access to transportation hubs, basic infrastructure availability, and community and local government support. Initial sites are currently being evaluated in Tororo and Fort Portal, Uganda and funding is already available for property acquisition.
In addition, specify the country or countries where these actions will be taken.
No country selected
No country selected
What impact will these actions have on greenhouse gas emissions and/or adapting to climate change?
The Women’s Climate Centers are designed to be carbon neutral and to provide communities with locally appropriate low-cost technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions:
Our Centers will use sustainable agricultural strategies comprising recycling of organic matter, tightening internal nutrient cycles, and low- or no-tillage practices may rebuild organic matter levels and reduce losses from the system. Mixed farming with manure amendment leads to higher organic matter levels in soil. Sustainable agriculture not only enables ecosystems to better adjust to the effects of climate change but also offers a major potential to reduce the emissions of agricultural greenhouse gases through low and no-tillage strategies.
Biogas digestors will use the decomposing material such as fecal matter and rotting plant remains generated at the Centers. For better quality biogas digestors, the Centers will be the collection point for cattle dung from the communities. The digestors are an easy-to-use, low-cost technology that can replace reliance on greenhouse gas producing fossil fuels with biogas – a carbon neutral resource.
Environmental restoration though tree planting (Reforestation). Trees that will be planted use carbon dioxide which is another greenhouse gas. 100 metric tons of carbon dioxide can be sequestered in one acre of forest over time. Just one center can sequester 500 metric tons of carbon dioxide from 1 center from the 5 acres of fruit trees. Since the center will be co-created with communities, each host community will be supported to plant additional 5 acres of fruit trees giving each center the potential to sequester 1000 tons of carbon dioxide. Managed forests accumulate more carbon per acre than unmanaged forests. The center will also sequester more tons of the neutralizing carbon dioxide via forest management.
Bio intensive farming and promotion. The use of dry sludge and compost from the Centers reduce reliance on excessive nitrogen fertilizers which leads to release of nitrous oxide into the atmosphere. Such organic manure also protects and preserves our soils thus protecting the agricultural economy which is core for most of sub-Saharan Africa.
Fireless cookers and low smoke stoves. By promoting fireless and low-smoke stoves, WCCI will prevent indoor air pollution, which kills more people every year than malaria. The stoves also cut greenhouse gas emissions and prevent deforestation and desertification. Demand for firewood for cooking leads to environmental degradation when trees are cut down and not replaced. The Global Alliance for Clean Cook stoves states that cooking with low smoke stoves reduces most pollutants by over 95%, they also ease pressure on dwindling forest resources.
Bio sand filters. By encouraging the development and use of bio sand filters, communities will have greater access to clean water without the need to boil water over firewood, reducing the carbon emissions in the air.
What are other key benefits?
- Resilient survival. Rural women are facing some of the most difficult climate challenges in the world. This project will work to alleviate their climate burden and promote resilient lives.
- Self-reliance. WCCI is focused on heightening the skills that rural women already possess and providing the resources to scale their knowledge across borders.
- Women’s leadership development and engagement in decision making
- Increased climate resilient crop yields
- New and diverse avenues of sustainable livelihoods
- Forest restoration
- Improved health outcomes
- Increased access to clean water and clean energy,
- Long-term solutions to further SDG targets on Goals 1,2,3,5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13,15 and 17
What are the proposal’s projected costs?
Setup and operation costs are anticipated at $150k per year for years One through Three. Some initial funders have already been identified and committed. For subsequent years, operating costs at Women’s Climate Centers will be funded by a combination of Center income-generation, local and national funding partnerships and some international support.
1)Developing income neutral Centers, that is, Centers that can sustain themselves by their own revenue generating activities and minimize their reliance on international philanthropy.
2)Developing a governance structure and an application process for a network of centers that share revenues so that larger centers subsidize the work of centers in more remote, rural settings.
3) Iterating real time responses to community needs and challenges with relevant training and appropriate low-cost technologies.
Short Term Impact (Year One): African leads will complete a thorough market assessment for the first WCCI demonstration site. African and US team leads will co-create a high-level business plan for presentation to funders. As a result, new business skills will be developed that can be downscaled and disseminated through entrepreneurial training for rural women and girls.
Medium Term Impact (Year Three): Within the medium term, the first WCCI site will launch and provide training and opportunity in environmental conservation and restoration, climate smart water sanitation and hygiene, bio-intensive farming technologies, and advocacy and entrepreneurship for hundreds of women and girls. The demonstration site is projected to be self-sufficient within 36 months and new sites will be identified to scale the concept.
WCCI’s holistic, place-based approach, driven and co-created by the people that are directly impacted by climate change allows for immediate, proven and effective application of tools and approaches to resilient survival. WCCI leverages local indigenous knowledge to strengthen resourceful communities.
Long Term Impact: (Year Five +) Multiple WCC’s will be established through East Africa and beyond. Existing brick-and-mortar women’s centers in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania that also want to replicate the WCCI model and are willing to collaborate in our mutually beneficial financial model, i.e., centers with higher revenue-generation potential subsidize smaller ones, will also be able to join the WCCI network. While there is great potential for scale, Women’s Climate Centers will proceed at the speed of trust within communities and within the network to insure the most successful outcomes. An annual symposium for representatives from the Women’s Climate Centers groups will provide on-going training and professional support
About the author(s)
- Tracy Mann is the founder of Climate Wise Women, a global platform that supports women’s leadership on climate change solutions.
- Hajra Mukasa and Godliver Businge are the co-founders of the Uganda Women’s Water Initiative.
- Rose Wamalwa is the founder of Women in Water and Natural Resource Conservation, Kenya.
- Sarah Diefendorf is the executive director of EFC West which empowers vulnerable populations and builds community capacity in the US and internationally.
Center for Climate Change and Poverty Reduction
Climate Change Interventions for Land Regeneration and Sustainable Food Systems
Restoration of biodiversity of community forests by indigenous women of Mwenga
UNDP Climate Change Adaptation in Africa (2018)
Turning Promises into Action: Gender Equality in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”
Invest in Girls and Women to Tackle Climate Change/Women Deliver
Gawande, Atul, “Slow Ideas”, The New Yorker, July 22, 2013
Rogers, Everett M., Diffusion of Innovations, New York: Free Press, 2003
Successful action on climate change depends on the engagement of women as stakeholders and planners in ensuring that everyone has access to the resources they need to adapt to and mitigate climate change. https://unfccc.int/news/gender-equality-crucial-to-tackling-climate-change-un