Cameroonian Wins Wangari Maathai Forest Champions’ Award 2022

ADDIS ABABA – Activist Cécile Ndjebet, of Cameroon, won the 2022 Wangari Maathai Forest Champions Award.

The award recognises her outstanding contribution to preserving forests and improving the lives of people who depend on them.

Chaired by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Collaborative Partnership on Forests honours individuals who have helped preserve, restore and sustainably manage forests.

This year, the award was conferred to the Cameroonian 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,” said Maria Helena Semedo, FAO Deputy Director-General.

“She has actively shown that women’s participation in forest governance and preservation is fundamental to achieving sustainable forest management,” Semedo said.

Gender equality

Roughly 70% of women in Cameroon live in rural areas and are dependent at least in part on harvesting wild forest products for their livelihoods.

And 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.

“Men generally recognise the great role women play in improving families’ living standards,” Ndjebet said.

“But it is important for them also to agree that for women to continue to play that role, and even improve in that role, they need secure access to land and forests.”

She has become a leading voice, both in Cameroon and internationally, in building global recognition on the importance of gender equality in forest management.

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).

Cam-Eco has worked to inform, train and support women to understand sustainability issues and to get involved in forest conservation and restoration.

Inspired by Maathai

Established by the CPF 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.

This year’s award winner met Wangari Maathai in 2009, and the environmentalist personally encouraged Ndjebet in her work to support women planting trees.

Previous winners of the award include 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), and Burundian forestry activist Léonidas Nzigiyimpa (2019).

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