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Cameroon: Cécile Bibiane Ndjebet, agronomist and activist for women’s land rights in Africa

Agronomist, forester and gender expert from Cameroon, Cécile Bibiane Ndjebet advocates for the right of African women to land security through her NGO “Network of African Women for Community Forest Management” (REFACOF). In 2022, she was awarded the prestigious Champion of the Earth Prize of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), as well as the Wangari Maathai Prize of the World Food Program (WFP).

For more than thirty years, Cécile Bibiane Ndjebet has been working on all fronts to ensure that women in Africa can own land. As the daughter of farmers, she grew up in an agricultural environment  where she discovered over time how women farmers were discriminated. Although they are the ones planting and cultivating, they are unfortunately deprived of the right to own land, which is essentially controlled by men. “I started experiencing this with my mother, my older sister, and other women in the village. I saw their suffering and I said no, maybe we should do something for these women… When you don’t have the right to control, you are vulnerable. At any time, the owner can get his land back…..”, she confided to Radio France Internationale (RFI).

She started her career as a civil servant. She later joined civil society and founded Cameroon Ecology in 2000. An NGO that campaigns for land rights for rural and indigenous women, as well as for the restoration of hundreds of hectares of destroyed land and forests. To date, the organization has helped restore more than 600 hectares of land, forests and mangroves. This work earned her the title of “Champion of the Earth” in 2022, awarded by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). By 2030, the NGO aims to revive 1,000 hectares of land.

In 2009, she founded the African Women’s Network for Community Forest Management (REFACOP), which aims to promote gender equality in forest management in 20 African countries. She advocates, in particular, for the development of policies and practices for gender equity in land and forest ownership. In Cameroon, Cécile Ndjebet is working to reform land and forestry legislation to include gender-related provisions. She is also campaigning for the harmonization of legislation and customary law.

In 2012, her work was recognized by the Central African Forest Commission. She is also a member of the United Nations Advisory Council on Ecosystem Restoration.