Soka Gakkai joins ITTO to support forest restoration in Togo, West Africa

Working with women's groups to address climate change and poverty and promote women's empowerment

On July 1, 2020, Minoru Harada, President of the Soka Gakkai Buddhist organization, met with Dr. Gerhard Dieterle, Executive Director of the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO), for the signing of a memorandum to launch a reforestation project providing income opportunities for women’s groups in two rural areas of Togo.

A donation of 10 million yen (US$93,300) will be made for the initial one-year phase of the project, to be launched on September 1, addressing climate change, poverty, and gender issues in Togo, where forests are being lost rapidly and poverty is increasing. The coronavirus pandemic has also caused people to return to rural villages, increasing the strain on forest resources.

Mr. Harada commented that the Soka Gakkai is glad to support this project that will bring real benefit to rural women and their families.

Togo's forests are being lost due to farmland expansion, extreme weather events, and overuse of forests to provide household energy and housing. The Ministry for the Environment and Forest Resources (MERF) announced in 2018 that the rate of degradation of Togolese forests is one of the highest in the world.

Dr. Dieterle expressed his gratitude, saying, “Often people talk about protecting the forest without concern for people’s lives. This project will protect women’s rights, boost the rural economy and food security, and restore degraded forest.”

The project will be carried out by the Togo NGO “African Women’s Network for Community Management of Forests” (REFACOF), a local partner of ITTO, and it will support women's groups in two of Togo’s poorest prefectures; Blitta and Lacs. In Pagala-gare village of Blitta Prefecture, forest restoration and enrichment planting will take place, and in Lacs Prefecture, a community forest for fuelwood will be created on a plot made available by the chieftaincy of Agouegan village. In both villages, agroforestry trees will also be planted on family land.

Increasing women's income will contribute to the realization of gender equality. Forest restoration mitigates the damage caused by climate change and strengthens community resilience.

This project is in line with Togo’s National Adaptation Plan (NAP) for climate change and Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) under the UNFCCC Paris Agreement of 2015. It will contribute to SDGs 1 (No Poverty), 5 (Gender Equality), 13 (Climate Action), and 15 (Life on Land).

See: ITTO and Soka Gakkai to help empower women in Togo through forest restoration

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The Soka Gakkai is a global community-based Buddhist organization that promotes peace, culture, and education centered on respect for the dignity of life. It promotes the SDGs, education for sustainability, and protection of the natural environment through projects and institutions including the Soka Institute for Environmental Studies and Research of the Amazon. The Soka Gakkai has 12 million members around the world, who contribute to society based on the humanistic philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism.

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