Guinea-Bissau, a small West African country, and its islands have faced environmental challenges, which have had a significant impact on its communities and resources. However, women in the country have played a critical role in preserving creole plant seeds and promoting sustainable agricultural practices.
Women’s Role in Guinea-Bissau
Ilha Formosa, one of the Urok Islands, is home to a unique group of women, who have traditionally been responsible for farming and harvesting crops, as well as collecting and preparing medicinal plants. They possess extensive knowledge of the country’s vegetation, which has been passed down from generation to generation, naming the women the ‘seed keepers’ of the Urok Islands.
Creole seeds are vital for the survival of the people on the Urok Islands. These varieties are pest resistant and can thrive in the extreme climate. The climate crisis, however, has made matters worse. With the rise of the sea level and the intensifying rainfall, the Urok Islands’ crops will suffer. The growth of commercial cashew cultivation is also a worry. It destroys the land around it and needs a lot of water, taking over the land and resources that are used by the other creole plants.
Despite these challenges, women in Guinea-Bissau remain committed to sustainable farming practices. Their community gardens preserve endangered plant species. They support each other and have been working with international partners, such as the Women Keepers of Agricultural Biodiversity Seeds project, to promote sustainability and gender equality. These efforts have helped hundreds of women and their families strengthen female leadership and gain greater autonomy.