Sherilyn Deschain is a third-generation forest owner and caretaker who has inherited care of acreage in Hillsborough, NC where her mother grew up. After taking over the land her mother fought valiantly to keep in the family, Deschain felt overwhelmed to know how to maintain the forest ecosystem – a fear that is common for women when it comes to taking ownership of land.
Fortunately, she was able to participate in the newly developed ForestHer NC program which gave her the tools and information she needed to feel confident. This program, created from a consortium of organizations provides education for women in sustainable forest management. Sherilyn went on to create a bountiful forest habitat that is now a unique home for myriad animals in the area who have no other refuge. “I think the hardest thing is believing in yourself. I would imagine there’s a lot of women that struggle with that.”
Unfortunately, Sherilyn’s right. Forestry is an area that is woefully women-bereft in leadership. While the United Nations reports that over 1 billion women rely on forests for their livelihoods worldwide, women have historically been left out of the conversation when it comes to land ownership and management. In the U.S., only 1/5 of family-owned forestry care is headed by women. Rita Hite, president of American Forest Foundation, has commented that “women in the sector have been left out . . . we have to create that environment where women feel welcome, so that they can be part of the impact on the planet.”
Women are uniquely gifted for taking the lead in forest care and regrowth which has a massive part to play in altering the climate crisis. Many women around the world are raised with a deep knowledge of medicinal plants and agroforestry – knowledge that is passed down to their daughters. Taking care of the land is a woman’s gifting.
Fortunately, organizations around the globe have witnessed this lack of female leadership in forestry and are beginning education initiatives to bring women into the conversation. Women like Fatuma Erima who has earned the nickname “Mama Green” in her Kenyan community for her knowledge of nursery management. Or like Louise Belk who has worked with the Forest Service in NC to plant 26 acres of longleaf pines because she wants to create a better future for her grandbabies.
These women are the future of forestry. Read the full article here.