The sun sets behind the mangrove forest in El Palmar community, Pantanos de Centla, Tabasco. It marks the end of a collective workday focused on the mangrove restoration project, in which 60% of the participants are women, a fact highlighted in a last photo taken after a day of training.
Since 1998, the community has organized itself to restore the mangroves. "we learned assessment and restoration techniques," shares Erika Nogueda, a community leader from El Palmar. "Year after year, we've improved. In 2019, we began collaborating with UNDP through the Resilience project funded by the Global Environmental Fund (GEF), through we restored 160 hectares of the community. Restoration is vital to us because our economy depends on fishing. Mangrove areas provide shade and food for all species , which constitute our source of income." "We have a mentor, another woman, Dr. Pilar Angélica Gómez Ruiz, a researcher from the Centro de Investigación Científica de Yucatán (CICY).
"Women have always been close to the mangroves because they engage in fishing activities in El Palmar," shares Dr. Pilar Gómez. "Currently, they are much more empowered as guardians and protectors of this ecosystem, a result of the ongoing restoration process. They have actively participated since the beginning of the training process. With the working team, we have designed workshops and schedules to ensure their participation, which is sometimes difficult by their roles at home." "At a technical level, they are now experts in recognizing red mangrove propagules and select the best ones to use for reforestation."
Currently, the project led by the women of El Palmar, called "Women in Action," receives support from UNDP through the Small Grants Program of the GEF. They are undertaking a participatory planning process at the community level to continue the restoration process in 204 hectares in partnership with neighboring communities to sustain fishing production and community tourism activities. This project is part of the Restoration and Conservation of Coastal Wetlands and Community Development - RE3CO initiative financed by The World Resources Institute Mexico (WRI).
"We must engage with communities to understand the role of women and young people in those communities, so they can contribute effectively and be part of territorial governance," shares Dr. Pilar Gómez. She asserts, "Both the women in the community and us, as scientists, sometimes struggle to recognize our participation and be seen as leaders. Women scientists and restorers must continue breaking gender barriers to promote acceptance, credibility, have our voices heard, and share our experiences and knowledge."
Erika concludes that "women can easily get involved in these restoration works, where there's a will, there's a way. Therefore, I invite women to join this international restoration movement."