JGI-Tanzania’s Mary Mavanza Travels to Capitol Hill; Recognized as “Woman Conservation Hero”



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Recently, Mary Mavanza, manager of the Jane Goodall Institute’s (JGI) TACARE program in Tanzania, was recognized as one of six women heroes of global conservation at an event on Capitol Hill sponsored by the United Nations Foundation, the Alliance for Global Conservation, and the Green Belt Movement. Alongside the panel of women heroes at the event, Mary addressed members and staff of the U.S. Congress and administration and called on them to take a leadership role in conservation.

“If you want to make sure the environment is conserved, work with women because they are the ones who feel the pinch of environmental degradation the most,” said Mary.

In most developing countries, women are the main providers of water, fuel, food, medicine and other basic necessities. Because they are the most directly connected to the environment, women are the most directly impacted by environmental degradation. Deforestation—a major form of environmental damage in many developing countries—leads to decreased water tables, desertification, and an increased incidence of erosion, floods and droughts, ultimately impacting agricultural productivity and safety. Due to deforestation and water scarcity, women must travel farther and spend increasing amounts of time collecting scarce natural resources when they could otherwise be getting an education, working, or caring for their children.

At the event, Mary noted that when women are healthy and have the time and opportunity to earn and control income, they are more likely to focus on their families’ nutrition, health and education, and are better able to conserve their environment.

JGI’s community-centered conservation program, TACARE, improves rural populations’ livelihoods through community development, forestry, agriculture, health and education programs. As manager of TACARE, Mary has helped support the program’s work to promote fuel-efficient stoves, provide girls scholarships, and construct schools and clean water facilities. Mary has helped hundreds of Tanzanian women start environmentally sustainable businesses by facilitating the establishment of microcredit schemes and providing training in accounting. By improving livelihoods of people living around Gombe National Park, Mary has assisted in the protection of nearly 200,000 acres of forests and worked with 24 villages to create land-use plans.

The event panel, which also included Afghan Governor Dr. Habiba Sarabi and Suzan Baptiste of Nature Seekers, among others, brought together six women heroes from around the world who are developing and leading bold and innovative models of conservation. The panel was moderated by Katty Kay of BBC World News America and included remarks from Nancy Sutley, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs Maria Otero, and members of the U.S. Congress.

While in Washington, D.C., Mary and the other women conservation heroes also met with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah, and Special Assistant to the U.S. President and Senior Director of the National Security Council Gayle Smith.


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