Women Affected by Industrial Plantation Expansion have urged all levels of government to embrace and fund women-led initiatives like agroecology that might boost local food economies and food production.
The formulation of policies and the transfer of land without the involvement of the women, which impacts them and their dependents, also caused them concern.
Women organised a demonstration with the slogan "Women's Rights are Human Rights" against deforestation, land grabbing, and gender rights violations related to the industrial plantation model. Forests are not plantations.
The event was organised under the auspices of Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), to mark the 2022 International Day of Struggle against Monoculture Tree Plantations observed globally on every September.
The women from Odiguetue, Ekosa, Ologbo, and Obaretin communities were led by Mrs. Gladys Osaghae to the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Benin City, Edo State, where they submitted a petition to the State Chairman of NUJ, Mr. Festus Alenghe.
The petition read in part: “Stop new concession agreement that clears out forest at the detriment of women and those that fall under our care.
“Our forest is our life. Support the creation of economic livelihood alternatives for industrial plantation impacted women and their families.
“Enact legislative and regulatory reforms that strengthen women’s rights related to the expansion of industrial plantation.
“Join voices with women around Africa and the world to denounce any violation, abuse, intimidation, harassment and violence against women in the industrial plantation model across all communities’ territories.”
Earlier, during a rally, ERA/FoEN Executive Director, Mr. Chima Williams, alleged that industrial plantation expansion in Edo State has subjected women to untold hardship as a result of their activities on the environment.
According to Chima, the International Day of Struggle Against Monoculture Tree Plantations, is a day for groups, organisations, networks and movements to celebrate resistance and raise their voices to demand “Stop the Expansion of Monoculture Tree Plantations!”
The executive director said that the environmental rights action is committed to protecting the Edo State environments and the rights of the citizens.
He said: “We in the environmental organisation are poised in joining the women in fighting against any kind of human rights violations by oil palm companies or any other company trying to deprive or displace the women from their farmland thereby subjecting them and their children to untold hardship.
“We will continue to join forces with women to also denounce abuse, intimidation, harassment and violence against them in the industrial plantation model across all community territories.”
While stating that no individual, including ERA/FoEN, could single handedly do such work, Chima sought the partnership of the NUJ and Edo State Government, saying, “with a collaborative efforts, Edo environments and the rights of her citizens would be surely protected.
Also, ERA/FoEN Programme Manager, Forest and Biodiversity, Ms. Rita Uwaka, lamented the grave impacts of deforestation to the environment, saying that “it affects men and women but it has more aggravated impact on women because they continue to be connected to food productions.”
Receiving the petition, Alenkhe said that women depend on forest and farmlands for their survival and wellbeing of their families.
He, therefore, urged oil palm companies operating in the state to obey labour laws which stated that a certain percentage of employment should be given to indigenes of the communities they operate, just as he called on the companies to obey rights of their host communities and stop any form of human rights violations.