Washington D.C., United States of America – November 24, 2023
Nigeria, ranking second globally in the percentage of its population lacking access to clean cooking solutions, faces a pressing environmental and health challenge. The reliance on firewood for daily needs has led to severe health issues, especially among women. Over 98,000 deaths annually are attributed to prolonged exposure to firewood smoke, according to the World Health Organization.
In Maiyama, a rural settlement in Kebbi state, Rukayya Adamu epitomizes the struggles of many Nigerian women. Starting her day by harvesting firewood for cooking and income, she represents 150 million Nigerians heavily dependent on environmentally harmful biomass.
The economic fallout from COVID-19 hit rural women hard, compelling many to engage in environmentally threatening businesses like firewood sales. Unfortunately, the urgent need for income often overshadows concerns about climate change.
Despite Nigeria’s commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement, the country grapples with the health effects on women and children due to consistent firewood and charcoal use. The environmental impact of deforestation and firewood sourcing from national parks further exacerbates the issue.
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The Nigeria for Women Project (NFWP), a World Bank-funded initiative, offers a glimmer of hope. Introduced in Maiyama, it organizes women into Women Affinity Groups (WAG) to enhance their livelihoods. Rukayya’s story reflects the transformative power of the NFWP. Through financial education, gender dynamics, and life and business skills training, the project empowers women to make informed decisions.
Rukayya’s transition from the firewood trade to sustainable businesses showcases the positive impact of the NFWP. She borrowed funds from her WAG, invested in alternative ventures, and expanded her offerings. The project has touched over 400,000 women, disbursing more than $17 million in business grants.
“In a world committed to combating climate change, women like Rukayya have the potential to become catalysts for positive change. The empowerment and knowledge gained through initiatives like the NFWP can pave the way for sustainable businesses, improved livelihoods, and a more environmentally conscious society,” says Rukayya, now equipped to contribute to positive change in her community and beyond.