An astounding sixty percent of the world’s poor live in ecologically vulnerable areas and rely on natural resources for survival; the majority are women. In many places, these vulnerable habitats are suffering rapid degradation. As nutritious food supplies dwindle, once predictable water supplies become contaminated or dry up completely, access to affordable energy becomes even more scarce, and the loss of nutrients from soils erodes any hopes for future harvests, communities become ever more insecure.
For the rural poor, degradation isn’t just about the environment. It means increased competition for livelihood resources and fuels conflict within and between communities. Often these local conflicts intensify and feed larger outbreaks of violence at regional and national levels. Resource loss also forces individuals to make tough choices that too often include accepting fraudulent offers of paid work from human traffickers or selling a child for labor, prostitution or sacrifice; that child is usually a girl.
While natural resources and the environment can often serve as the root of insecurity, examples abound of how restoring and preserving ecosystems and resources can serve as the seed of peace and security. In the Yatta district of Kenya, efforts to improve food security and stabilize farmlands have decreased the number of girls forced into prostitution. Meanwhile, in the Albertine Rift of the DRC, efforts to promote inter-community cooperation and engage both men and women in natural resource management have decreased the incidence of conflict. There is a new way to deliver peace and prosperity, security and hope for millions of people around the world. New Course is working to bring this body of work together and apply solutions—solutions that target the root of the problem.
Root Solutions is a bold collaboration of key environment and development organizations, private corporations, universities, and other partners who are coming together to design and implement projects in 10 sites. Five locations will be in post-conflict areas and five will be in rural areas where human trafficking is on the rise. The goal is simple: deliver peace and security through reforestation programs, improved natural management and ecosystem recovery techniques that systematically engage women. These environmental techniques will be coupled with economic empowerment programs, inclusive governance, and peace and reconciliation strategies to ensure that women living in ecologically vulnerable areas are able to tend their crops, feed their families, and raise their children in a peaceful, healthy world.