I – Martha Agbani - grew up in the Niger Delta in Nigeria as a member of the indigenous farming and fishing community of Yaataah. For decades, our families lived in constant contact with the waterways. My grandmothers relied on them to collect our food and to make pottery to sustain our family. Unfortunately, things have changed. Since the commencement of fossil fuel extraction operations by Shell and the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation in 1957, the water that we have long depended on has become contaminated. And it’s not only the water, the impact of fossil fuel extraction also leads to acid rain, high temperatures, dryer soil, delayed rains and destruction of marine habitats.
Following the observation that although women were most impacted by environmental degradation and yet not fully included in environmental restoration work, we decided to take the matter into our own hands. We, the gender and environmental rights organisation, Lokiaka Community Development Centre, an environment and gender rights organisation that I lead, trained 250 women and girls in mangrove restoration and biodiversity management.
Mangrove forests are a crucial and diverse ecosystem. Their conservation is critical to tackle the climate crisis. They store up to four times more carbon than traditional rainforests, their dense root systems serve as shoreline protection against floods and storms, prevent erosion and maintain the water’s quality and clarity. Our vision is this: to restore 500.000 mangroves a year and 5 million mangroves within the next decade. We have already seen our work paying off : Shellfish, like crabs, lobsters and shrimps, all part of our basic diet, have returned to the vital mangrove habitat. We have regained hope.
This is our call: Resources must be shifted away from fossil fuel extraction. It is polluting our waters and driving us further into the climate crisis. We plead our governments, banks and companies to listen: Efforts and resources must be directed towards the true gender-just climate solutions that us, women and girls, are implementing in the Niger Delta. The work we are doing, restoring mangrove habitat is a real and just solution to climate change.
The Lokiaka Community Development Centre has been carrying out campaigns targeting Shell and the Nigerian government to provide potable water in communities, and is pushing these actors to clean, remediate and restore the Ogoni environment.
This is one of the stories highlighted in the annual WeWomenAreWater Campaign by the Global Alliance for Green and Gender Action showing the leadership of women and girls from local and indigenous communities in the protection and sustainable use of water resources, and calling for support for gender-just climate solutions.