Justice and Sustainability

Seeds of Change: How The Women Of The Mukonka Village Are Reviving Its Ecology – One Seed At A Time

In Zambia’s Rufunsa district, the Mukonka village, rich in natural resources and biodiversity, faced severe environmental degradation due to illegal logging and charcoal production, leading to loss of streams, forests, and traditional food sources.

By FCAM | March 12, 2024

Long Story Short:

In Zambia’s Rufunsa district, the Mukonka village, rich in natural resources and biodiversity, faced severe environmental degradation due to illegal logging and charcoal production, leading to loss of streams, forests, and traditional food sources. The women of Mukonka, rooted in eco-feminist principles, turned this crisis around by reviving Indigenous seeds. Through advocacy, they secured land rights and banned illegal logging, gradually restoring the ecosystem. Their story highlights the need for climate finance to be redirected to Indigenous women actions advancing climate mitigation and adaptation.

False Solution Affecting the Mukonka Community:

In the Rufunsa district of Zambia, the onset of illegal logging in 2008 marked the beginning of an ecological catastrophe for the Mukonka community, native to the place. This once-bountiful area, known for its perennial streams and lush forests, was drastically transformed by unsustainable practices. The indiscriminate felling of trees, particularly the Mukula, a species coveted for its use in luxury furniture, primarily in China, set off a chain of environmental degradation.

Before this crisis, Mukonka was a natural sanctuary. The hills were adorned with tall, Indigenous trees, including the valuable Mukula and fruitful Masuku, surrounded by mango-rich homesteads. The community thrived on the sale of these fruits, especially during the early season, to the capital city, Lusaka. This trade was not just an economic activity; it was a lifeline that sustained households and farming activities. Moreover, these fruits were a crucial supplement to the community’s diet, particularly during the rain season when food scarcity in rural areas was common.

However, the landscape began to change dramatically with the illicit extraction of Mukula trees around 2008. While some of this activity was illegal, the government also issued licenses for logging, creating a complex scenario of sanctioned and unsanctioned exploitation. This extraction was further fueled by the district’s charcoal business, catering to the energy needs of urban dwellers disconnected from electricity or unable to afford it.

The environmental impact of these activities was devastating and swift. By 2010, perennial streams such as Chakenga, which were vital for the community’s water supply and agriculture, dried up even before the rain season began. The loss of these water sources led to a decline in vegetable and banana cultivation along their banks, further impoverishing the community. This trend became a common plight across the region, exacerbating water scarcity and leading to reduced rainfall, droughts, and unpredictable rain seasons. As a result, crop yields plummeted, with staples like beans, maize, and groundnuts suffering severe seed loss.

The economic desperation brought on by these environmental changes pushed many community members to engage in the very activities that were destroying their land. Tree cutting for charcoal became a last resort for income, further depleting the forest and even impacting the Masuku trees, a crucial food source.

Gender-just climate solution

In response to this devastation, the women of Mukonka village are pioneering a gender-just climate solution by embracing an eco-feminist approach to agroecology passed down through generations of Indigenous knowledge – the power of Indigenous seeds. Known for their resilience to the changing climate, these seeds are capable of thriving even in the most challenging environments. They are hardy, drought-resistant, and well-adapted to local conditions. By cultivating these seeds, the women of Mukonka are not only conserving their rich biodiversity but are also finding a sustainable source of livelihood that is in harmony with their environment.

A significant part of this transformative journey involves establishing community seed banks and conducting annual seed exchange programs. These initiatives are bolstering the community’s agricultural self-reliance and play a crucial role in preserving a diverse range of Indigenous plant species. The women also actively engage in advocacy efforts, sensitizing both traditional and government authorities to the importance of recognizing women’s roles and rights in seed selection and land usage. This advocacy, in collaboration with the broader collective efforts of activists, Indigenous communities, and other environmental groups, has contributed to meaningful policy changes. Among these is the government’s decision to ban illegal logging – a significant win for the community and environmental justice.

Furthermore, the community has embraced and implemented a solar-powered project to aid the growth of these resilient seeds. This initiative is aimed at recovering seeds lost due to climate shocks, symbolizing a melding of traditional knowledge and contemporary solutions to create a more resilient agricultural system.

Call to Action

Our fight is far from over. Climate finance, especially funds supporting Indigenous and gender-just climate solutions is the lifeline for grassroots movements like ours. Our solutions, deeply rooted in traditional knowledge and respect for the earth, is the future. We call on governments to shift resources from false solutions and redirect toward real solutions that are gender-just and come from the grassroots as the ones proved by women and girls of Mukonka village

– Women Environs Zambia

In the narrative of Mukonka village, the transformative power of climate finance becomes evident in enabling grassroots movements to combat environmental degradation and bolster food security through sustainable practices. The adoption of agroecological methods, such as the utilization of Indigenous seeds and the integration of solar-powered agriculture, was made possible through strategic financial support. This funding was instrumental in not only establishing and expanding community seed banks but also in facilitating the development of renewable energy solutions for agriculture. Moreover, it supported critical advocacy and awareness efforts. In Mukonka village, women, who are traditionally the keepers of agricultural wisdom and practices, are at the forefront of these initiatives. By directing financial resources towards women-led gender-just climate solutions, climate finance not only addresses immediate ecological and food security challenges but also ensures women’s participation and leadership in decision-making processes – an essential step toward ensuring gender, climate, and environmental justice.

Who’s supporting this gender-just climate solution?

Women Environs in Zambia (WEZ) collaborates closely with the community leaders and chiefs in Mukonka, working on advocacy initiatives to empower women at the grassroots level. The organization champions the cause of women owning land and facilitates this through projects such as the Indigenous Seed Multiplication Project. WEZ is funded by Global Greengrants Fund a GAGGA strategic ally and Mama Cash a GAGGA alliance member.


This is one story out of many from the The Global Alliance for Green and Gender Action (GAGGA) network where women, girls, trans, intersex, and non-binary people from local and Indigenous communities are at the forefront of fighting for climate and environmental justice against false climate solutions. The time is now to resource the transformative climate solutions led by women, girls, inter, non-binary and trans people and stop investment in false climate solutions. Commit your support to uphold human rights and invest in women’s leadership in gender-just climate solutions!

GAGGA will be present at CSW68 between March 11 to March 22, 2024. For collaboration opportunities and to learn more, please contact Noemi Grütter, GAGGA Co-Coordinator, Responsible for Advocacy and Collaborations: n.grutter@fondocentroamericano.org. For additional insights around this article and Women Environs Zambia’s work and to connect directly, reach out to Susan Chilala, WEZ Coordinator at susanchilala@yahoo.com or womenenvirons@gmail.com.

This story and GAGGA’s CSW68 actions are supported by Global Affairs Canada and The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Their contribution has been instrumental in GAGGA’s efforts to highlight critical issues and voices at CSW68.