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African Women On Climate Change Front Line

Women farmers in Lower Congo have been the first to notice the effects of desertification, and the first to react.

Searching for more fertile soil in DRC
Searching for more fertile soil in DRC
Alphonse Nekwa Makwala and Emmanuel Lukeba

MATADI — Women in the rural areas of Lower Congo, southwest of Kinshasa, are in the direct path of climate change's devastating effects. Made aware of the vulnerability of local crops to desertification, a group of women are actively working to reforest the area, and encouraging others to do the same.

“We are suffering. No one is taking care of us. How are we going to send our children to school, to feed them, dress them?” asks Alphonsine Lukebana, a farmer from Kimpese. "Now we have to travel long distances to grow anything, because the earth doesn’t give us good harvests anymore."

Another rural woman from the Democratic Republic of Congo, who has come to the regional capital of Matadi to sell her products, says she must deal with the destruction of the forests, and the costs of traveling to sell what crops she is finally able to reap. "It’s an enormous effort just to survive,” she says. “How much profit can we make with the increasing price of transportation?”

Reduction in harvests, water sources drying up, less and less arable land, disappearance of animal and plant species: These are effects of desertification, one of the most visible consequences of climate change. “These changes plunge women, especially those who live in rural areas, into unprecedented poverty,” explained Annie Mbadu, the secretary of the Network for Women and Development (Refed).

Pascal Tsasa, head of the office in charge of managing the forests and environment in Lower Congo, explains why the effort is spearheaded by women. “It is women who are the ones who depend the most on agriculture to support their households.”


Environmentalist Christian Pululu says that brush fires and deforestation are the main reasons behind the climate catastrophe in Lower Congo. Local associations have taken the lead in reforestation efforts, in order to help the women in the region.

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Women step up in Democratic Republic of Congo — Photo: Refed

In the village of Kiwembo, the community association for rural development has already planted more than 10 hectares of trees. “We put beehives in the areas we plant, to harvest honey for the women who are suffering the brunt of global warming,” said Jean-Marie Bopoma, a technical consultant in development.

In the village of Nsioni, there are many women who plant trees. “Women are the first ones affected, they have understood what is happening, and that’s why they are motivated to act,” explained Donatien Ngoma, from the Peasant’s Solidarity Association in Mayombe.

Other communities are following the example, and reforestation is becoming a reality. “We don’t have a choice if we want to get out of poverty,” says Marie Nsiewete.

A meeting held by the Network for Women and Development in Matadi last summer gave rise to several recommendations to combat poverty and poor agricultural yields. They included a freeze on construction along the Banana-Muanda road, in order to protect mangrove forests, a revival of the local seed bank and research into drought-tolerant varieties.

Pascal Tsasa explains that in the face of climate change, the response must come in many forms. "You have to practice agro-forestry in concert with farming.”

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Livestream Shopping Is Huge In China — Will It Fly Elsewhere?

Streaming video channels of people shopping has been booming in China, and is beginning to win over customers abroad as a cheap and cheerful way of selling products to millions of consumers glued to the screen.

A A female volunteer promotes spring tea products via on-line live streaming on a pretty mountain surrounded by tea plants.

In Beijing, selling spring tea products via on-line live streaming.

Xinhua / ZUMA
Gwendolyn Ledger

SANTIAGOTikTok, owned by Chinese tech firm ByteDance, has spent more than $500 million to break into online retailing. The app, best known for its short, comical videos, launched TikTok Shop in August, aiming to sell Chinese products in the U.S. and compete with other Chinese firms like Shein and Temu.

Tik Tok Shop will have three sections, including a live or livestream shopping channel, allowing users to buy while watching influencers promote a product.

This choice was strategic: in the past year, live shopping has become a significant trend in online retailing both in the U.S. and Latin America. While still an evolving technology, in principle, it promises good returns and lower costs.

Chilean Carlos O'Rian Herrera, co-founder of Fira Onlive, an online sales consultancy, told América Economía that live shopping has a much higher catchment rate than standard website retailing. If traditional e-commerce has a rate of one or two purchases per 100 visits to your site, live shopping can hike the ratio to 19%.

Live shopping has thrived in China and the recent purchases of shopping platforms in some Latin American countries suggests firms are taking an interest. In the United States, live shopping generated some $20 billion in sales revenues in 2022, according to consultants McKinsey. This constituted 2% of all online sales, but the firm believes the ratio may become 20% by 2026.

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