Originally founded in 1993, CAMFED is a pioneering charity, increasing the number of girls getting an education in Africa. It began in Zimbabwe by financing 32 girls to enable them to attend secondary school, proving that if poverty was taken out of the equation, girls would be in school alongside boys. By 2019, support had been extended to more than 4.1 million children through Zimbabwe, Ghana, Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia.
Portia, Senior Development Officer at CAMFED, Explains:
We hear from the girls and women we support across sub-Saharan Africa how climate change is already affecting them. Most of the young people we support are based in rural, smallholder farming communities. Climate change is causing more erratic and unpredictable weather, floods and droughts, and weather disasters such as the recent Cyclone Eloise.
This is affecting communities’ ability to grow food, and the effects are felt hardest by girls and women. In a case of resource scarcity more girls are taken out of school and pushed into early marriages; girls and women are at greater risk of hunger and gender-based violence, and their livelihoods are undermined.
“Climate change is causing more erratic and unpredictable weather, floods and droughts, and weather disasters such as the recent Cyclone Eloise.”
In this challenging context we see the educated, young women leaders of the CAMFED Association stepping up to build resilience to the effects of climate change in their communities, and to encourage sustainable practices that reduce future greenhouse emissions. CAMFED won the 2019 UN Global Climate Action Award in recognition of the effectiveness and potential for scale of our approach.
CAMFED Association “Agriculture Guides” volunteer their time to provide training in climate-smart farming practices – combining Indigenous techniques and innovation – that can sustainably increase yields. These practices include using waste vegetable matter for composting and mulching to reduce water run-off and improve soil nutrition; repurposing discarded plastic water bottles for affordable irrigation; and planting two complementary crops together to increase the yields on small plots of land. Educated young women are achieving impressive outcomes including improved yields in the face of climate change.
“using waste vegetable matter for composting and mulching to reduce water run-off and improve soil nutrition; repurposing discarded plastic water bottles for affordable irrigation; and planting two complementary crops together to increase the yields on small plots of land.”
Agriculture Guides are also sharing information on ways to manage and protect natural resources that sequester carbon — such as using “living hedges” instead of chopping down trees, and preserving forest cover. They also demonstrate how to construct cleaner cook stoves from locally-available materials, reducing greenhouse emissions. They have already reached 8,500 people and we will reach more than 50,000 people in rural Zimbabwe alone over the next two years.
We know that women’s leadership is associated with positive environmental action and reduced carbon emissions. By educating girls we are investing in effective, diverse leadership to shape climate change solutions. Educated women are better equipped to champion climate-smart technologies at community level; engage in national and international leadership for sustainable futures, and to make personal choices that reduce carbon emissions.
- Consider, for example, Forget, a CAMFED Association member from Zimbabwe, who set up a dried fruit and vegetable enterprise, Chasi Foods, to tackle food waste and improve nutrition. Forget recently spoke at the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI) Feminist Action for Climate Justice session. In 2020, Forget started an MSc programme at the University of Edinburgh, studying for an Msc in Entrepreneurship and Innovation.
- Clarah, a climate-smart agriculture specialist and Chair of the CAMFED Association in Zimbabwe, represented our movement at the CAMFED Garden at the Chelsea Flower Show 2019, which showcased the use of climate-smart techniques to feed school communities and keep children in school. The garden was inspired by her fellow member Beauty, whose methods have brought lasting change to her local school and community.
- Then there are the CAMFED Association leaders like Annie in Zambia, who are now leading on the development of a climate-smart demonstration farm on land bequeathed by the local Chief Nkula, one of the many men in our movement.
- Their fellow Association member Winnie is collaborating with the Zambian Ministry of Gender, which is encouraging her to expand her climate- smart garden project into a women’s cooperative and create a demonstration farm.
- Esnath, who accepted CAMFED’s UN Climate Action award, and who recently featured on the BBC Radio 4 episode “39 ways to save the planet” joined forces with fellow Core trainer Vivian to train 160 new Agriculture Guides last October. She also runs a model insect farm, providing training to community members in how to grow sustainable protein.
This coordinated international advocacy, coupled with local climate action, tackles hunger and poverty, and unlocks more resources to support the most vulnerable children to learn and thrive. It’s a testament to the multiplier effect of supporting girls through school and into independence and leadership beyond school.
To learn more about CAMFED and ways you can support the work they do, head to: https://camfed.org/