WICA and WFCI Fellows at the GFOI Plenary

In May 2023, the Global Forest Observation Initiative (GFOI) held its annual plenary session at the FAO headquarters in Rome, Italy. This event brings together experts from around the world who support tropical countries in measuring, reporting, and verifying (MRV) and forest monitoring efforts. The goal is to assess the progress countries have made in monitoring forests and find ways to enhance their capacities for better forest management and the reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions.

As part of this initiative, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) International Programs supported the participation of three laureates from the Women’s Initiative for Climate Action (WICA) and six from the Women Forest Carbon Initiative (WFCI), which are SilvaCarbon-supported programs that aim to increase the involvement of women in national processes to combat climate change in Central Africa. The women, representing Cameroon, Gabon, and Vietnam, had the opportunity to join the nearly three hundred people from governmental and non-governmental organizations, and other global and national institutions, to hear about the progress being made in monitoring forest cover using satellite imagery, the management of greenhouse gas inventories, and new technologies being deployed to achieve the global objective of preserving forests for climate stabilization.

WICA and WFCI fellows with USFS staff. Photo: ©FAO/Roberto Cenciarelli

“During these three days, it was very gratifying to see how committed the various communities are to preserving the world heritage that is the forest, to achieve the global objective of stabilizing the climate. For me, one of the most positive aspects of the event was the effective inclusion of women in this activity, and in the various actions to combat climate change at an international level,” said Ariane Prisca MEWAMBA, a WICA fellow from Cameroon.

One of the highlights of the event for Anaick MODINGA DIKONGO, a WICA fellow from Gabon, was a meeting between the WICA and WFCI laureates, the Associate Chief of the USDA Forest Service Angela Coleman, and SilvaCarbon officials before the plenary session. The Associate Chief took the time to emphasize the importance of their commitment and action in forestry and related fields in the fight against climate change.

“The opportunity to speak with Angela Coleman, Associate Chef of the USFS, whose inspiring career story gave us words of encouragement […] was a real privilege.  She said that our commitment and action in forestry and all other related fields count in this fight against climate change. It is our duty to support this global action,” said Anaick afterward.

Angela Coleman (center) with WICA and WFCI fellows from Gabon and Cameroon. Photo by Rene SIWE, USFS-IP.

The side event titled “Shifting the Climate for Women’s Engagement in Climate Action” was another significant part of the plenary for the fellows. Chief Associate Angela Coleman opened the side event with a keynote address, followed by presentations that introduced the WICA and WFCI programs.

In her keynote, the Associate Chief emphasized the importance of including women in climate work. “As we work towards sustainable forest management and climate action, it is crucial to recognize and support women’s contributions to this endeavor. The role of women in forests cannot be overstated,” she said.

Presenting the WICA and WFCI programs. Photo: ©FAO/Roberto Cenciarelli

The eight women from the WICA and WFCI programs shared their experiences and insights as panelists, discussing what motivated them to pursue careers in forest carbon monitoring and how SilvaCarbon’s capacity-building programs helped them build their skill sets.

Génicka MENGUE, a WICA fellow from Gabon, stressed the need for young women to become more involved in climate change efforts. “There is still so much to be done in terms of responding to climate change, and young women should get more involved and make their contribution because they have so much to offer. Through its WICA program, USFS is giving Central African women the opportunity to take part in the current global challenge to combat climate change. I, therefore, encourage women to be more involved because they are just as concerned, and they have the capacity to make things better,” she said.

WICA and WFCI fellows at the GFOI plenary session. Photo: ©FAO/Roberto Cenciarelli

The fellows appreciated the opportunity to be given a voice during the side event. “I was honored to have the opportunity to share my modest experience in the field of climate change at this USFS side event at the GFOI. There’s no doubt that with the entry of women into the fight against climate change and the recognition of their know-how in the sustainable management of natural ecosystems, we can be sure that they are aware of their vulnerability and are determined to contribute, so that future generations inherit a living, rich planet”, said Ange Sonia KADJIO FEUDJIO, a WFCI/WICA fellow from Cameroon.

The presence of WICA and WFCI fellows at the GFOI plenary demonstrated the importance of increasing women’s involvement in combating climate change in Central Africa. These women are committed to the preservation of forests and the stabilization of our climate for the benefit of future generations. Their participation at the event showcased the importance of recognizing and supporting women’s contributions to sustainable forest management and global climate action. Through their efforts, they are paving the way for a more inclusive and impactful approach to addressing the challenges of climate change.

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