The Algerian government is committed to greater environmental protection. In Algeria, Africa’s largest country by area, urbanisation and industrialisation are putting pressure on the environment. The GIZ is supporting the Algerian Environment Ministry in its activities to protect nature. Working on behalf of the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), GIZ provides advice on setting up and managing nature reserves and protected areas. This project is special because it has involved disadvantaged women from these areas in its nature conservation activities.
In rural Algeria, attitudes to gender roles are still very traditional, so most women work in the home. However, it is also the women who traditionally harvest berries, leaves and blossoms to produce cosmetic oils – for example, valuable mastic oil – and other products for their own use and to sell locally. It was therefore vital to formally integrate women into the project’s nature conservation work.
In two national parks – an existing one and a new one under development with support from GIZ – women have joined forces to organise and set up Algeria’s first ever women’s cooperatives. In consultation and cooperation with local authorities, these women are now harvesting natural plant resources in the protected areas in sustainable amounts. For example, a harvest schedule is being introduced that prevents over-exploitation by regularly rotating the collecting areas.
Around 90 representatives from the cooperatives – of which there are now five – have expanded their knowledge in training courses. GIZ has also financed new oil presses, leading to improvements in production. The women can now produce better-quality oil in larger quantities and thus earn more when they sell it on local markets. What is more, they have not only extended their product range to include creams and soaps but also optimised their marketing.
Some of the women have taken part in international trade fairs and are now exporting their products to France via a marketing company. In addition, the oil producers currently have their sights set on obtaining organic certification for their products. The achievements of the Algerian women’s cooperatives are proof that environmental protection and economic development are not mutually exclusive. On the contrary; they reinforce each other.