Women of the Earth

A prestigious award handed out to 3 Canadian Women

1st Prize Winner

http://www.greenlivingonline.com/sites/default/files/Carole robert_001_v1.jpgCarole Robert, Founder and Director of the Biotechnology for Sustainable Development in Africa (BDA) Foundation, is the winner of the 1st prize in Canada, which consists of a bursary totaling €5,000. She also received the Special Mention for Plant Biodiversity at the international level. This distinction corresponds to an additional bursary of €5,000.

A woman of action and commitment, through BDA, Carole is turning a project she has cared about for a long time into reality: reconciling environmental development with economic and social development in Africa. According to Carole, one of the best ways to protect the biodiversity of the forests in Africa is to promote the economic development of its medicinal plants and trees for the benefit of local populations, thereby generating a new sustainable economic system.

In 2006, she implemented the Plant-Action Project in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). This is a unique and innovative training program aimed at volunteer candidates who already have some knowledge of farming. The students learn how to grow, harvest, use and package medicinal plants using the quality control standards of the global food, cosmetics and pharmaceutical markets. The first two years of their curriculum are dedicated to theoretical teachings and practical, hands-on experience provided by local and international experts. Students learn all about entrepreneurship and industrial production using the World Health Organization’s (WHO) guidelines on good cultivation and harvesting practices. At the end of the 3rd year, students go back to their respective communities to start up their own value-added agribusinesses. At this stage, they are still being supported by the BDA Foundation, which ensures business coaching services and eligibility for a micro-credit fund. To date, 26 students have passed their first year of studies and close to 20 business projects have already been launch. With the help of local partners and associations, the BDA Foundation has also completed the construction of a plant chemistry laboratory, which gives the students the opportunity to work with state-of-the-art technologies.

The Plant-Action Project passes on knowledge that lets Africans develop a new sustainable economic system through the creation of stable companies and jobs. Through its initiatives, the BDA Foundation is working to reduce poverty in the DRC, one of the most disadvantaged countries in the world.

http://www.greenlivingonline.com/sites/default/files/Jacques rocher et carole.jpgAnother central focus of the Foundation’s mission is the environment. The DRC has been ranked as one of the 10 mega biodiversity countries in the world because its forests contain about 60% of the species of flora and fauna found to date. The sub-Saharan region of Africa where the DRC is located also contains 43% of the medicinal plants available on the planet. Amongst its natural resources, the DRC also boasts the 2nd largest tropical rainforest in the world (after the Amazon), the Congo Basin rainforest, which covers over 2 million km2. But extreme poverty and lack of government structure when it comes to managing natural resources are leaving the field wide open to practices that are harmful to the environment (illegal wood harvesting, forest fires, hunting), sometimes even on wildlife reserves. With its technical and scientific support, the BDA Foundation is teaching local populations organic growing, harvesting and gathering practices that are responsible and fair. The inhabitants are thus taking concrete actions to protect and promote biodiversity and reforest the forests around them.

The Yves Rocher Foundation also values the positive environmental impact of this initiative. With the technical and scientific support of the BDA Foundation, local populations learn how to farm their botanical heritage in a sustainable and environmentally sound manner by working concretely to protect local biodiversity and to re-establish the forests around them. This aspect is all the more interesting because 43% of the medicinal plants available on the planet come from the sub-Saharan region of Africa where the BDA Foundation is located. Given that 2010 was declared the International Year of Biodiversity by the United Nations, Carole Robert’s initiative falls perfectly aligned with current global concerns for preserving biological diversity.