New awards celebrate women in the biomass industry

The potential of women to make a positive contribution to the biomass sector is enormous. However, this is often underappreciated. The Namibia Biomass Industry Group (N-BiG), in partnership with the Bush Control and Biomass Utilisation Project, implemented by GIZ within the German-Namibia development cooperation in close collaboration with the  Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism has announced the winners of the Women in Biomass Industry Award 2020. Farmer Agnes Tjiramba from Omaheke Region as well as community activist Jenny Paulse and young professional Taimi Ndilimani, both from Jumbo Charcoal in Okahandja take home this year’s award. A first of its kind, the award aims to empower and celebrate women in the Namibian biomass industry. It raises awareness for the impactful and diverse opportunities within the industry.

Initiated in August 2020, as part of the celebrations to honour “Women’s month” awards, it comprised of three categories; the Entrepreneurship, innovation and leadership; Social and community engagement and the Employee award. These categories recognised creativity and innovation in bush biomass value chains, leadership, awareness, dedication and contribution to the growth and development of the biomass industry.

The nominations were diverse and ranged from environmental awareness activities, community development, bush-feed research, poultry production, with charcoal processing being the prevalent activity. About 17 nominations were received. The nominees came from seven regions; Omaheke, Khomas, Otjozondjupa, Omusati, Hardap, Oshikoto and Oshana.

Agnes Tjiramba, winner of the “Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Leadership” category is a resettlement farmer in Otjinene, Omaheke region. An educator by profession, she is the sole owner and managing director of Grootrooibult farming and has set up a diverse portfolio of farm operations, including livestock farming, crop production as well as charcoal production. She single-handedly overseas recruitment of over 20 employees and monitors compliance to harvesting regulations and guidelines.

The “Social and Community Engagement” award went to Jenny Paulse at Jumbo charcoal. Jenny has been with Jumbo for over 22 years and today has the overall site responsibility for packaging export products which includes scheduling, quality adherence, team management and logistics. She has played a pivotal role in every established process at Jumbo, including being a member on the Fairtrade Committee which has provided workers with bicycles, set up a vegetable garden, installed water taps in the community, provided school books and more.

This year’s “shooting star” is Taimi Ndilimani (33), winner of the “Employee” category. Taimi is responsible for all matters stock related at Jumbo Charcoal and oversees a team of 13. She hails from northern Namibia and embraced a steep learning curve at the beginning of her career and now is a key influencer at the company, implementing new processes, promoting new products and educating those around her on sustainability.

“This has been an exciting project from the onset. We have managed to bring recognition to extraordinary women in the biomass sector, at the same time, demonstrate how gender-inclusive the biomass sector is. The Namibia Biomass Industry Group (N-BiG) is a Section 21 non-profit industry association representing a wide range of private sector and academic members active within the Namibian bush-biomass sector. Part of the association’s mandate is to explore market opportunities, strengthen capacities and promote industry diversification. The Namibian biomass industry has almost doubled its employment from 6,000 to 11,000 within the past five years and creates diversified opportunities for both men and women, beyond this initiative more than 200 woman have already benefited from our technical support in sustainable bush control and biomass utilisation. One of our objectives is to improve and modernise technology along harvesting as well as processing systems, which should avail more opportunities for women to be engaged within the entire value chain. Women can contribute at every stage of the biomass value chains. Apart from the cash prizes, the first prize will receive 1-year membership with N-BiG that comes with obtaining technical advice and support for their business.  We are providing N-BiG membership to the winners to ensure that their contribution remains relevant for the biomass sector. We are hoping that the awards can grow bigger in future, with more sponsors on board to celebrate women in the industry.” Progress Kashandula, Chief Executive Officer of Namibia Biomass Industry Group stated during the awards ceremony.

The awards ceremony was addressed by Mr. Benson Matali, Acting Deputy Director for Gender Mainstreaming at the Ministry of Gender Equality, Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare. “I applaud the sponsors for this commendable initiative to recognise the achievement of women in an industry that is traditionally known to be dominated by men. As such, it gives me pleasure today that women in Namibia have entered into this industry. These women deserve to be supported both technically, financially and through capacity building. Their capacity should be strengthened for their businesses to grow and to become multi-national companies owned by women. The biomass industry is one of the enablers that can help us as a country to achieve women’s economic empowerment in Namibia and government is cognisant of the fact and the role that women play towards socio-economic development of our country.” Matali acknowledged that more still needs to be done to ensure that both men and women are at the same level of economic empowerment.  This will enable them to participate in high-value activities such as biomass thereby contributing to the growth of our economy, reducing poverty and creating sustainable and decent jobs. Moreover, these awards contribute to gender mainstreaming and to the Sustainable Development Goals including goal 5 on achieving Gender Equality and Empower all Women and Girls.  

The “Women in Biomass Industry Awards” is an initiative by the Namibia Biomass Industry Group in partnership with the Bush Control and Biomass Utilisation Project, implemented by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) in close collaboration with the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism on behalf of the German Government. The initiative aims to celebrate women’s achievements, empower women and raise awareness of the potential and contributions of women in the biomass industry. The winners were selected at the beginning of October 2020 by an independent jury composed of both industry and farmers unions including NAU and NECFU.  “I had the honour and the opportunity to learn about the achievements of all the nominees. These are committed women who dare to lead in the biomass industry. To me, they are all winners, and they are essential role models for women empowerment beyond the biomass industry,” said Pekeloye Kamenye, Senior Technical Advisor of GIZ Bush Control and Biomass Utilisation Project in her closing remarks at the ceremony. Kamenye emphasised the need to amplify the involvement of women to tap into the endless opportunities in the biomass industry, moving away from charcoal to other innovative ideas in pharmaceuticals and cosmetics and encouraged more players to implement initiatives that are gender-sensitive and recognise women who are stepping up into leadership positions.

Find below additional information on the event.

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