The majority of the rural poor rely heavily on their local environments to provide basic necessities like water, food and energy. These vital resources provide the backbone of many rural livelihoods and their stability is key to securing the wellbeing of entire communities. Currently, millions of the world’s rural poor are living in ecologically vulnerable areas where these vital resources are degrading, becoming increasingly scarce, and are no longer meeting basic livelihood needs.
Environmental degradation has devastating effects for those who rely on natural resources for survival. Beyond immediately depriving rural communities’ vital food, water and energy needs, decreases in natural resource access and quality can have negative repercussions for health, education rates, security, as well as agricultural and economic productivity. Where environments are declining, a cascade of negative consequences follow that shatter the livelihoods of local women and their communities.
Despite increasing rates of resource degradation, there is hope. We recognize that those who depend most on natural resources, namely rural women, are also those with the greatest potential to rejuvenate their environments and natural resource bases. As the primary users of their communities’ natural resources, women have unique knowledge and experience that positions them to serve as stewards of their environments. At New Course we see this potential and engage women in sustainable resource management to build secure livelihoods, restore damaged ecosystems and benefit entire communities.
Through our work we have seen the immense impact that securing natural resources has on the livelihoods of women and their communities. When resources are secured, women have more time to grow crops or start businesses, girls are more likely to attend school, and the rewards of these outcomes benefit not only the women, but their families and communities as well. Further, where women are engaged and sustainable natural resource management is fostered, communities can become more resilient and less vulnerable to outside factors such as climate change, conflict or human trafficking.