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This booklet is the speaker's notes for the single-frame colour filmstrip
"Women in Community Forestry". The photographs are black-and-white repro-
ductions of the colour slides in the filmstrip.
The main fuel for cooking in Africa is firewood and charcoal. The trees
and shrubs of arid regions are disappearing in the cooking fires of every
kitchen, and the fuelwood shortage is overwhelming.
In Sudan, the government Forestry Department is trying to find ways to
teach people to plant fast-growing trees everywhere possible. Interesting
efforts are being made in several regions. Village women committees are
organized to work on reafforestation managing their own tree nurseries,
community woodlots, village shelterbelts to stop sand-dune invasion,
individual tree nurseries in their own backyards.
This filmstrip is a documentary of this experiment. It can be used in
training of women for development, in forestry-extension workshops,
forestry schools, in seminars on people's participation, in-service
training of development agents, and to emphasize how women as gatherers
and users of fuelwood are key persons in reafforestation, and must be
involved much more in forestry planning and practice.
This filmstrip was made possible by funding from the Swedish International
Development Authority (SIDA). It was produced by the Community Forestry
Unit, Forestry Department, and the Information Division of the Food and
Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in collaboration with
project GCP/SUD/003/NET, Fuelwood Development for Energy in Sudan, and SOS
Sahel International Community Forestry Project, Shendi, Sudan.
Text: Caroline Webb
Photography: Roberto Faidutti
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2. In Sudan, 80 percent of the population
relies on trees for the provision of its
3. Rural people mostly use firewood but,
in the towns, many people have now turned
4. Over the last 20 years, it is esti-
mated that a third of Sudan's forests have
disappeared and there is now critical
pressure on the remaining reserves.
5. Reafforestation has therefore become
an urgent priority.
6. Raising everyone's awareness of the
necessity to reafforest has become a major
goal, and it is recognized that, as the
main users of wood for fuel, women are a
vital section of the community to address.
7. So, forestry policy is now embarked on
a path of converting as many wood con-
sumers as possible into tree producers.
8. Here in Kassala District in the
Eastern Region, a start has been made to
involve village women in reafforestation.
9. Village tree nurseries
women's groups are beginning
10. It is an initiative being pursued in
several other parts of Sudan, both by the
Government in association with FAO, and by
S.O.S. SAHEL INTERNATIONAL :
SCommunity Fbrestry .Project.-
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11. One such organization is SOS Sahel,
with whom FAO has been exchanging ideas
about methods of approach to community
12. In this programme we shall look in
some detail at the way in which SOS Sahel
has managed to develop participation of
women in community forestry initiatives.
13. Where traditional, constraints on
women's role might have prevented any in-
volvement with tree-planting, ways have
been found to overcome them through the
Project's design and methods of working.
15. Its area of operation is among the
villages which are scattered around Shendi
on either side of the river.
14. SOS Sahel has its base in the bus-
tling market town of Shendi, which lies
some 150 km north of Khartoum, in the
16. It is an arid area with low rainfall
and, but for the Nile, agriculture would
17. However, on the narrow strip of fer-
tile land which borders the river, the
people have farmed successfully for mil-
19. ... providing the water needed by
thousands of small farmers, ...
18. Their agriculture has depended on
irrigation from the Nile and the fields
are laced with large and small irrigation
20. ... and every square inch of land
that can be cultivated is precious.
21. Shendi is an important agricultural
area, mainly producing citrus fruits,
beans, vegetables and some cereals.
23. However, there are two major problems
for the people living here. One is the
invasion of sand-dunes into villages and
fields, and the other is shortage of wood
for energy and building.
22. While the quantity of produce may not
match other parts of Sudan, the quality is
high and there is strong demand for Shendi
produce in the markets of Khartoum and
24. It is an increasingly common sight to
see abandoned houses or even schools, as
here, in the villages around Shendi. As
with many other places along the Nile, the
encroachment of the desert is causing
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25. And there is a high price to pay for
27. SOS Sahel was set up to help people
start tackling these problems. Trees,
trees and more trees are needed to re-
create supplies of energy and to stem the
process of desertification.
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26. The vast dust-storms which now last,
off and on, for four months of the year,
are taking their toll on the villages
around Shendi and women's search for fire-
wood is becoming increasingly desperate.
28. The Project is now working to moti-
vate tree-planting on a wide scale and
its approach is to encourage the develop-
ment of forestry, both as an individual
and as a collective enterprise.
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29. Communication and close contact with
the community have been the key to
31. Advertisements are put up inviting
everyone, of both sexes and all ages, to
attend a puppet show in the evening.
30. A successful way of starting work in
any community is to run a puppet show
which has been specially devised to raise
questions about the need for trees.
32. This puppet show acts like a magnet
for people, and audiences may range from
200 to 2 000, proving the popularity of
this method of community education.
33. And so, whilst being entertained and
enjoying themselves, people are exposed to
the idea that they could plant trees to
35. It is the grandmother who knows how
important trees are and remembers the days
of many trees around Shendi.
34. The story they see follows the tra-
ditions of local folktales and characters;
these puppets are All, who is the star of
the show, and his beloved grandmother.
36. The puppets are made and operated by
young men who have been trained by the
37. Their performance provides great
amusement and pleasure.
38. Afterwards, the people are told that
the Project will help them to plant trees
if they are willing to do some of the
necessary work themselves.
. . .- ... .... . ..- . .
39. Any village which decides to get in-
volved must form a committee, which will
take responsibility for many decisions and
40. The first thing that has to be de-
cided and negotiated is the allocation of
land in the village for forestry activity.
41. Community nurseries are a joint
endeavour between villagers and the
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42. There are now six community nurseries
providing trees for eighteen villages.
43. Water for the nurseries comes from a
pump irrigation system; the costs of in-
stalling and running this are met by the
44. Next to the nurseries, and using the
irrigation supply, are community woodlot
plantations. The purpose of these wood-
lots is to provide a new source of build-
ing material and fuelwood.
45. Another major component of community
forestry is the planting of village
shelterbelts. The aim of the shelterbelts
is to protect villages from sand-dune
47. The third main forestry activity
being promoted by the Project is the
planting of windbreaks in the agricultural
46. Each shelterbelt is pump-irrigated
during early growth, and the pump will be
moved to another site once the trees are
established. The species are Prosopis,
which will provide a valuable new supply
of animal fodder and fuelwood.
48. The aim is to persuade as many far-
mers as possible to invest in windbreak
plantations around their fields. This man
is a citrus-fruit farmer who has planted
49. He has discovered the benefits of
protection from wind and sand for his
fruit and the message is beginning to get
51. The production of young trees for all
these purposes comes from two main
sources. The village nurseries we have
50. This farmer decided to protect his
tomato fields with Eucalyptus.
52. ... but the other source is to be
found in thousands of miniature nurseries
being run by women in their homes.
53. This activity fits in easily with the
social customs and traditions which deter-
mine the lives of women in this part of
54. Local tradition says that women's
role and responsibilities are in the home.
55. Women are not expected to take part
in farming that is for the men.
56. Nor is it expected that they partici-
pate in any trading activities.
57. Their social mobility is therefore
restricted to the major tasks of running a
home: collecting water, fuelwood and
fodder for domestic animals.
59. For many younger women who do not yet
have children, there is often time to
spare which may be spent on such things as
decorating themselves with henna.
58. Women spend a lot of time in each
other's company and avoid mixing with men
60. In designing the forestry project in
Shendi, a deliberate decision was taken to
reach these secluded women and find a way
of involving them in forestry too. In
practice, the response by women has been
61. So how does it work and what are the
63. The meeting was run by Shadia el
Amin, a graduate of Cairo University who
now heads a team of five women exten-
62. Participation by women starts off
with a meeting being held, shortly after
the performance of the puppet show, to
which all interested women are invited.
This particular one was for the women of
64. Shadia begins by asking the women if
they think there is a problem with desert-
ification and fuelwood supplies these
65. An elderly woman replies, telling
them that in her youth, there were plenti-
ful supplies of fuelwood from the many
trees which surrounded the village, but
that now there is a real shortage.
67. She tells them: "We are inviting
you to participate in this activity by
cultivating trees yourselves. We provide
you with seeds and plastic bags to grow
them in and we even bring you soil."
66. Shadia then explains that it is
possible to do something about these
problems. She describes how many villages
have now started to grow trees in woodlots
68. The idea of growing trees is new to
everyone; there are always some doubts
and questions. This one asks: "But what
about water? We are sometimes short of
water in this village and what happens if
our goats eat the seedlings?"
69. Shadia replies: "Don't worry. You
will find that the seedlings don't need
very much water and we will show you how
to protect them from being eaten by an-
imals. Now I would like your reply to our
idea are you in agreement with it?"
71. Afterwards, the new Committee members
visit their neighbours and help them fill
in the answers to questions such as 'How
much wood and charcoal do you use?' and
'Have you planted any trees before?'
70. The women of Elriwes village are keen
to start and five of them offer to form a
Women's Committee which will help coordi-
nate tree-planting in the village.
72. The information from this question-
naire is used by the Project to build up
knowledge of the villages they are working
73. The questionnaires are later analysed
by the women's extension team who meet
regularly to discuss their work and plan
the coming activities.
75. They also discuss the need for the
puppeteers to devise a new puppet show
oriented specifically towards women.
74. At this particular meeting, they plan
to help the women of Sayal Kabir village
to do some planting in the women's section
of the community woodlot.
76. 'There are now so many women growing
trees in their homes, it would be useful
to have a puppet show written specially
77. Shadia brings up this point at the
monthly meeting of other project staff
with the Project Manager and it is agreed
that something shall be done.
79. So Shadia takes the new committee to
see the one at El Kumeir, explaining the
different tree species and uses to which
they are put.
78. ELRIWES WOMEN GET GOING. At the
meeting in Elriwes, someone suggested that
it would be useful to visit a community
nursery and see what is was like.
80. She tells them that it was women from
El Kumeir village who made this sunshade
roof and asks if they will help her orga-
nize a roof-making session by the other
women back in Elriwes.
81. She then explains how the newly
planted woodlot at El Kumeir will event-
ually provide the village with a new
supply of wood.
83. The Elriwes women are quick to see an
opportunity they ask Shadia if they can
take home a seedling each there and then
... The spirit of tree-planting is defi-
82. Looking at the Leucaena trees which
border the nursery, they learn that these
trees are only one year old and they too
may have such big trees in their own homes
if they wish.
84. The Committee organizes other women
to come and make new sunshade roofs. The
women extensionists have brought along a
supply of dom palm branches which have to
be measured and cut to size.
85. Extensionist Huweyda shows them how
to weave the branches together with rope
87. POLYBAGS AND HOME NURSERIES
86. ... and they quickly pick up the
88. Another form of participation is
that, every once in a while, groups of
women get together in someone's house to
punch drainage holes in the polybags in
which seedlings are grown.
89. The hole-puncher, an item one would
usually find in an office, has turned out
to be the ideal tool for making holes of
the right size.
91. And so does the cultivation of mini-
ature tree nurseries in their own homes.
This activity is perhaps the biggest and
most extensive part of the women's in-
volvement in forestry.
90. The thousands of polybags used
throughout the whole project are prepared
in this way by women volunteers. In fact,
the business of community forestry depends
on this regular contribution by women. It
is a vital activity which fits in very
well with the normal run of their lives.
92. By November 1987, well over 2 000
women from the eighteen villages had
successfully grown 18 000 seedlings at
93. The Project provides a mixture of
seeds for cultivation using relatively
easy ones to grow so that the women will
not be discouraged by germination fail-
95. Howa Nour and her daughter are very
keen participants. Howa said: "I like
growing trees. The first thing I do in
the morning is come and look at the nur-
sery and irrigate it. I want all the area
to be green so I will grow many trees for
94. Each woman grows about thirty seed-
lings which may be used in two main ways.
She will keep some to plant out in her own
compound and return any that she does not
want to the Project nursery.
96. Saida Hamad said she was making this
nursery because she wants to grow some
trees for shade, for firewood maybe and
for building materials.
97. Even some former nomadic women have
started to plant trees. Extensionist
Huweyda is visiting Esem Ambala who has
built a good barrier against her goats to
protect her first tree nursery.
99. The extensionists are busy all the
time, visiting at least twenty women each
98. This woman is really keen on trees.
She has planted more than twenty-five in
her family home and is now into her third
100. They keep a check on progress and
help to solve any problems as they arise.
101. The strategy of motivating women to
produce trees in their own homes has
proved more successful than was ever ima-
gined at the outset. For many, it is the
first time they have ever grown anything
and there is clearly immense satisfaction
103. This woodlot in Sayal Kabir village
was the first one to be established by the
Forestry Project, and is seen here after
twelve months of growth.
102. But cultivating at home is not the
whole story. Women around Shendi have
also started to grow trees outside their
homes, in the village woodlots.
104. Once the women of Sayal Kabir heard
there was going to be a woodlot, they took
the initiative and asked if there could be
a section just for the women. The Village
Committee agreed to allocate land and so
the novel step of women planting trees
outside their home was taken for the first
105. They decided to create their own
woodlot so that they could be sure of
fuelwood supplies in the future. If it
was left just to the men to make a wood-
lot, they suspected the majority of wood
would be used for building material ...
107. Sayal Kabir women also had the idea
that they would like to grow some vege-
tables in between the trees in the early
days of growth.
106. ... and, as the ones who have to go
in search of fuelwood, they wanted to make
sure the village woodlot would actually
1d8. Today, the Women's Group has got
together in order to do some replanting in
its section, because some goats unfortu-
nately got in and demolished one part.
109. They are planting a stand of
Eucalyptus which, by means of coppicing on
a regular basis, will provide them with
wood for many years to come. Sayal Kabir
Women's Committee is now responsible for
the long-term management of their woodlot.
111. Perhaps the majority of women parti-
cipants are the younger generation the
unmarried or newly married ones ...
110. This enthusiasm and commitment to
forestry is not only impressive in itself
but confirms the readiness of women, if
given the chance, to be actively engaged
in managing their own energy requirements.
112. ... but there are certainly some
grandmothers who have taken up seedling
113. ... and there are also many women
with children taking part.
115. Undoubtedly, the employment of
female extensionists is one of the in-
gredients for the successful integration
of women in community forestry.
114. The enthusiasm of the women to
participate in forestry is partly due to
the popularity of the female extension-
ists. Many said that if it had been men
coming to ask them to plant trees or make
sunshades, they might not have responded
116. While this is probably true anywhere
in the world, it is particularly signifi-
cant in a society where customs keep the
sexes quite separate. It is easy and
117. But beyond this, it was pointed out
by Shadia el Amin that they think it is
important to take a 'soft' approach in
their dealings with women.
119. But the long-term future requires
education through the whole community and
this means involving teachers and children
118. An approach which avoids putting on
pressure or telling women what to do but
rather spends time listening to them and
enabling them to find their own ways of
solving the questions of forestry develop-
120. In common with other agencies pro-
moting forestry in the community, includ-
ing the Government Forestry Department,
SOS Sahel has recognized the importance of
educating the young in the villages.
121. There is close liaison with local
schools and children are brought to the
community nurseries to play their part in
123. Project staff also go into schools
and help the children to plant trees in
the school compound.
124. In the villages of Shendi, as in
other parts of Sudan with active community
forestry programmes, a vital beginning has
been made. Investing in trees is an in-
vestment in Sudan's future well-being.
125. If a formidable energy crisis is to
be averted and the health of the land en-
sured, all hands are going to be needed,
young and old, men and women. Tree-
planting is the key to a more secure
future if you do take care of the land,
the land will take care of you.
Other filmstrips produced by FAO in a series on arid-region
-The desert stops here
-People who need fuelwood
-Dune stabilization turning back the sand
-Les brise-vent (available in French only)
These and other filmstrips on soil, water and forestry
conservation can be obtained from: Distribution and Sales
Section, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United
Nations (FAO), Via delle Terme di Caracalla, 00100 Rome,
Italy. Write for the catalogue entitled "FAO filmstrips".