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    Connecting Landscapes empowered women in mountainous regions of Cuba

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    In the International Year of Sustainable Development in the Mountains and when commemorating the world day of these ecosystems, the advancement of women is recognized as a relevant result of the international project Connecting Landscapes, recently completed in four mountainous massifs of Cuba.

    Freddy Morales Ruitiña, technical coordinator of this global initiative, stressed that they strengthened technical capacities and benefited 689 women, from forestry, pig, coffee, and medicinal plant farms, nurseries, protected areas, and communities surrounding the Special Sustainable Development Regions (REDS by its Spanish initials) Guaniguanico, Guamuhaya, Bamburanao and Nipe‒Sagua‒Baracoa.

    It meant that the instructive work with the farmers and their families fostered the leadership of the female sex, which contributed significantly to the sustainability of the project, by being linked to educational, productive and social activities.

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    With their contribution, Connecting Landscapes fulfilled, after eight years of work, the purpose of guaranteeing the effective protection of biodiversity against current and future threats in mountain scenes, from the top to the coast.

    He highlighted that 509 women (producers, technicians and specialists), whose economic and social life takes place in the aforementioned mountainous regions, were trained through courses, workshops and seminars, inside and outside the country.

    The preparations covered topics related to the conservation of biodiversity, sustainable management, connectivity, the landscape approach, fire management, forest planning, the management of protected areas, geographic information, and computer applications for fire defense and biological corridors, he explained.

    He added that the female sex was also represented in training on climate change and ecological integrity; and the International Coffee Cupping Course was organized and taught, with 13 participants, including six women.

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    By establishing 11 capacity-building centers and improving conditions in three classrooms, located in the Institute of Ecology and Systematics, the Agroforestry Research Station, and the Ranger Corps Headquarters, opportunities for improvement were expanded, mainly for children, adolescents, youth and women.

    Environmental education activities benefited 97 communities, where more than 69,000 inhabitants reside, and contributed to raise awareness and exalting their role in protecting the environment and social and economic development, he stated.

    He exemplified that in the Sierra del Rosario‒Mil Cumbres biological corridor, located in the Guaniguanico REDS, within the provinces of Artemisa and Pinar del Río, and with more than 21,800 inhabitants distributed in 32 human settlements, the actions carried out favored 2,950 people, including 1,500 women.

    In the town of Paso Cuba, in the Guantanamo municipality of Baracoa, the assembly of a technical tube nursery achieved stability, growth, diversity and facilities for the production of seedlings, in addition to increase employment opportunities and the incorporation of other women to that job.

    Yamilé Oria Hernández, producer of Las Margaritas pig farm, in the municipality of Florencia and located in the Bamburanao REDS, said that pig farming is part of a closed production cycle that makes her property a benchmark for other similar ones in the country.

    La Guajira

    She explained that the crops support the animals, their waste is used to generate biogas and the biodigester residues (certified by scientific institutions) are used as organic fertilizer for various crops.

    The link to Connecting Landscapes committed her and her family to the transfer of knowledge about the use of renewable energy sources and agro-ecological practices, essential for sustainable development in the hills.

    She considers herself an empowered woman of her time, capable of accomplishing any task without losing her feminine essence, therefore, if she has to yoke oxen, she does it, she commented, leaving no room for doubt.

    International Day of the Mountains

    International Mountain Day, proclaimed by the United Nations Organization (UN) since 2022, is celebrated for the first time on December 11, under the slogan "Women move mountains", with the aim of promoting gender equality and, therefore, contribute to improving social justice, livelihoods and resilience in those ecosystems.

    Mountains Day

    According to the UN, women play a fundamental role in protecting the environment and social and economic development in mountainous areas, as they are usually the main administrators of resources in these habitats, guardians of biodiversity, custodians of local culture and experts in traditional medicine.

    Constantly increasing climatic variability, coupled with a lack of investment in mountain agriculture and rural progress, have led men to migrate elsewhere in search of alternative livelihoods.

    Niria Castillo Arzola

    In such circumstances, women living in the mountains have assumed new roles, with the difference that they often suffer from a lack of decision-making power and unequal access to resources.

    As farmers, market vendors, executives, artisans, entrepreneurs and community leaders, mountain women and girls, particularly in rural areas, have the potential to be important drivers of change.

    When rural women have access to resources, services and opportunities, they become a key tool against hunger, malnutrition, and rural poverty in mountain economies, the UN acknowledges.

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