Women are leading the charge rewilding mangroves in Cambodia

Women are leading the charge rewilding mangroves in Cambodia

Mangroves are vital to life in Cambodia. Not only do they provide a structural home to an ecosystem teeming with biodiversity, but those tree roots partly submerged in ocean water create a unique habitat for all kinds of marine life that many communities use as their primary source of income. Over 200 million people worldwide rely on mangroves for their food supply and livelihoods including 90% of households in Cambodia. Alongside being a valuable resource for locals, mangroves create a first line of defense against flooding serving as shoreline protection against storms, preventing erosion, and maintaining water quality and clarity. With climate change increasing the severity of extreme weather and human development decreasing the span of mangroves, a female-led coalition in Cambodia aims to rewild these ecosystems and empower local women. 

The climate crisis disproportionately affects women, 80 percent of people displaced by climate change are women. Women also represent a high percentage of poor communities that are highly dependent on local natural resources for their household water supply, energy, and their family’s food security. This coupled with the fact that Cambodia ranks 103rd on the World Economic Forum’s 2021 Global Gender Gap Index means there is urgent need for projects aimed at helping Cambodian women adapt to a changing climate. Action Aid, an international NGO who works against poverty and injustice worldwide, started a campaign, She Is The Answer, which aids communities’ resilience to climate change through empowering local women. One of the programs in their campaign is a mangrove rewilding project, Action Aid has been working with communities in Kampot to plant over 100,00 mangrove saplings along the shore. 

Cambodia is one of the countries most at risk from the climate crisis. Communities like Kampot and Kep are exposed to the wrath of storm surges. According to Action Aid, Kampot has also suffered greatly from mangrove clearance with forests shrinking by 62% in the last 30 years. An analysis by The Nature Conservancy reports that just 100 yards of mangrove trees can reduce wave height by 66%. Mangroves also sequester and store more carbon per unit area than terrestrial forests, making them essential to fighting temperature rise globally which would further decrease the severity of these storms. 

In addition to rewilding, the women have also set up a network of climate adaptive floating gardens and schools where future generations can learn about climate change and resilience. Another program, Our Women Champions, also provides training, skills, and confidence to women in Cambodia seeking to have their voices heard in decisions being made at both the community and government level. Around 50 women in this program have been equipped with climate science knowledge and the tools and support necessary to play an active role in decision making. Action Aid’s work is fueled by research that has shown women empowerment to be one of the most effective solutions in tackling the climate emergency. Women are key to solving the climate crisis, and rewilding efforts around the world play an essential role in providing leadership opportunities that further equality and the health of our planet. 

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