From food and water to energy and medicines, the livelihoods of many of the world’s rural poor, and disproportionately those of rural women, are sustained by what their environments provide. However, growing numbers of rural communities are living in vulnerable environments where the quality and availability of these vital resources is declining. Resource degradation in these communities stems from both external factors, such as climactic changes, encroachment by outsiders or conflict, as well as from internal issues, namely poor natural resource management.
Despite the trend of increasing resource degradation and environmental decline, we believe there is reason to be hopeful. At New Course we recognize the unique position of rural women, as the primary users of their communities’ diverse resources, to serve as stewards of environmental renewal and sustainability. By enabling rural women and their communities to better manage their resources, we help communities restore damaged ecosystems, stabilize their communities’ natural resources, and improve both the security of their livelihoods and of their environments.
The communities we work with occupy a plethora of different ecosystems, from arid deserts to coastal mangroves, but we have witnessed common outcomes throughout our work. When interventions take into account the unique roles, needs and potential of all stakeholders, both women and men, sustainable natural resource management is more effectively institutionalized. Further, in communities we enable to sustainably manage their resources, both community development and environmental conservation goals are more effectively accomplished.
We’ve seen the powerful impact that enabling natural resource management has on rural communities. From creating secure livelihoods, to freeing up women’s time to increase agricultural yields or grow businesses, while also improving health and education. Ultimately, the benefits of improved resource management are significant advances for the quality of both rural communities and their environments.