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Leveraging WI-HER’s iDARE Methodology to Improve Conservation Efforts under the USAID Tuhifadhi Maliasili (Preserve Natural Resources) Project in Tanzania

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By: Dr. Stella Mwita, WI-HER Technical Advisor, Africa; and Lilian Tarimo, WI-HER Consultant

Tanzania’s forests, woodlands, grassy plains, and coral reefs host a diverse and unique array of wildlife, encompassing over 55,000 confirmed species, including one-fifth of Africa’s bird population. However, decades of deforestation have resulted in the loss of at least one-third of the land vital for sustaining this biodiversity. To address this, the USAID Tuhifadhi Maliasili (Preserve Natural Resources) project, implemented by RTI International, improves biodiversity and conservation among rural communities in Tanzania. WI-HER, a resource partner of the USAID Tuhifadhi Maliasili project, oversaw capacity-building initiatives to promote the inclusion and decision-making power of women, youth, and other excluded groups in conservation activities.

To do this, WI-HER leveraged its iDARE methodology, which is rooted in human-centered design and quality improvement, to train a local conservation organization, MJUMITA, on how to address gender, youth, and social inclusion (GYSI) issues at the community level from September 2022 to June 2023.

WI-HER trained a local conservation organization in Tanzania, MJUMITA, on how to address gender, youth, and social inclusion issues and challenges that impacted conservation efforts.
WI-HER trained a local conservation organization in Tanzania, MJUMITA, on how to address gender, youth, and social inclusion issues and challenges that impacted conservation efforts.

Why is addressing GYSI issues so important to conservation efforts?

Men, women, boys, and girls depend on natural resources for their livelihoods and daily needs. Yet women and youth, who often have unequal access and opportunities to manage those resources, including water, food, and land, are disproportionately affected by biodiversity loss and mobility restrictions imposed on community members to preserve biodiversity and wildlife. This occurs due to restrictive social and cultural norms that entitle men, as heads of the household, to greater decision-making power, political influence, and leadership in community-led activities.

As traditional caretakers, women rely heavily on water, food, and land to support their family members and are most affected when access to these natural resources becomes threatened. Youth, on the other hand, are searching for income-generating opportunities and are more likely to take part in harmful environmental practices to financially support themselves and their families.

As the impacts of climate change on rural communities in Tanzania become more volatile, communities must work together to adapt to changing climatic conditions. Conservation efforts must include women and youth who make up a substantial majority of these communities yet lack the knowledge, power, and opportunity to interface directly in the decisions that affect them most.

In providing technical support to the USAID Tuhifadhi Maliasili (Preserve Natural Resources) project, WI-HER focused on:

  • Strengthening participants’ understanding of the basic factors related to GYSI that prevent the conservation and management of natural resources in seven villages at Amani-Nilo corridor, Muheza district, in Tanga Region.
  • Reducing barriers to participating in environmental conservation to improve women, youth, and other marginalized groups’ involvement in conservation management.
  • Addressing GYSI factors to create an enabling environment for biodiversity conservation and natural resources management using the iDARE methodology.

How iDARE was Applied Through USAID Tuhifadhi Maliasili

WI-HER worked with MJUMITA in Tanzania to implement the steps of WI-HER’s iDARE methodology: identify, design, apply/assess, record, and expand. Using this stepwise approach, WI-HER supported MJUMITA in designing culturally and contextually appropriate solutions to improve the participation and engagement of women and youth in conservation activities.

What is GYSI?

Understanding gender, youth, and social inclusion (GYSI) issues starts with recognizing that individuals—based on their gender, age, and other identifying characteristics–have different lived experiences in regard to access to services, information, and more.  Addressing GYSI involves enabling all individuals to claim their agency in creating solutions to their own community’s challenges, and ensuring that vulnerable and marginalized groups–like women and girls–are not left behind but are proactively included in the co-creation and implementation of solutions through the use, for example, of iDARE.

What is iDARE?

iDARE is an innovative participant and community-led approach that equips individuals with the knowledge and tools to take control of their lives, identify and address harmful social and cultural norms, and gradually shift the behavior of those around them. The methodology enables and builds the capacity of individuals—who are closest to the challenges—to design and implement solutions within their own communities.

Identifying the Challenges to Environmental Conservation and Locally-Led Development in Tanzania

The first step included forming iDARE teams composed of key stakeholders, such as religious leaders, tribal council members, village and ward leaders, and peers. This step is critical because soliciting the buy-in and engagement of informal yet influential decision-makers is vital to fostering sustainable change. These teams received routine sensitization and coaching by WI-HER on GYSI and conservation issues, which included:

  • Limited participation among women and youth to engage in public settings to discuss these issues directly;
  • Increased unemployment among youth that results in them participating in informal businesses that harm the environment; and,
  • Water scarcity issues that result in women traveling farther distances to access water, which increases their risk of safety and sexual exploitation.

Once members understood the issues, WI-HER assisted these iDARE teams in identifying ways they could improve natural resource management and conservation issues. One iDARE participant in the USAID Tuhifadhi Maliasili project explained how iDARE has impacted the way community leaders identify conservation issues, collect data, and begin to develop solutions to strengthen community involvement in conservation activities:

Designing and Applying Solutions to Forest Conservation and Resource Management

iDARE teams developed solutions to increase the engagement of women and youth in conservation activities, including:

  • Women conducting forestry patrols to reduce the threat of harmful environmental practices (e.g., burning trash, cutting down trees, polluting water sources);
  • Women establishing income-generating businesses to diversify their income while promoting biodiversity through poultry rearing and beekeeping; and,
  • Youth initiating awareness-raising activities to educate their peers on topics related to deforestation, illegal tree harvesting, and water pollution.

A lot of the work conducted and solutions designed by iDARE teams focused on educating their peers and elders about conservation and GYSI issues by, for example, promoting targeted messages to community members at their homes and places of worship:

Villagers, like Bertha Anderson Maguru, used the iDARE methodology to help initiate discussions with the leadership of neighboring villages to help protect the forests.

Recording, Evaluating, and Expanding Solutions

Throughout the year, WI-HER and MJUMITA provided follow-up visits to each team to record progress on their solutions and discuss challenges. In evaluating which solutions made the most impact, WI-HER and MJUMITA identified community ownership and buy-in from village council members as critical.

This iDARE team member shares the importance of working with leadership early when requesting their support in forestry patrols:

A key part of the success and expansion of these conservation and forest management solutions is that iDARE teams now feel a sense of belief in their own skills in designing and implementing change. This is reflected by an iDARE team member, a young person living with a disability, who has increased his confidence to intervene in his community when there is a sound of a saw cutting trees down in the forest:


WI-HER’s work under the USAID Tuhifadhi Maliasili (Preserve Natural Resources) project fostered community ownership and accountability, as reflected by the testimony of iDARE team members. When people are provided with the proper training and tools, they can become their own changemakers and disseminate this information to others. This results in a cascading and lasting impact, especially for women and youth, in stewarding their continued inclusion in natural resource management and conservation efforts.

Guided by these principles, community members—under the direction of the Muheza village council members and our local partner, MJUMITA—will continue to advance locally-led sustainable change in their communities for years to come.

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