Sustaining a Healthy Environment

What’s at Stake

The climate crisis is threatening an already challenging landscape, with women and girls at particular risk.

The climate crisis is causing a range of new challenges for communities in Africa, including unpredictable rainfall and land degradation across West Africa and the Sahel. It is also amplifying longstanding challenges including poor water and waste management, soil erosion, increasing desertification, and disease transmission.

The risks our partner communities face are many. They often lack basic sanitation facilities, creating a physical environment which puts the community members’ health at risk. In addition, the risks posed to agriculture may create the risk of famine.

Tostan’s findings show that many families eat only one meal per day. What’s more, women, girls and other minority groups are disproportionately affected by all these issues. For example, while women make up 70% of the agricultural labor force, they often do not have equitable access to agricultural resources such as land ownership, extension services and quality seeds.

What We’re Doing

Empowering education helps communities lead initiatives that promote sustainable solutions to environmental issues, supports women and girls to make new contributions in leadership and economic development, and increase resilience to unexpected shocks.

Our Community Empowerment Program (CEP) equips community members with the knowledge and skills to find creative and sustainable solutions to problems. During the CEP, participants learn how the most common diseases are transmitted. They also learn about the ways in which environmental conditions contribute to health challenges and measures they can take to address them. Our respectful and non-judgmental approach promotes community discussion about the environment. As a result, communities lead initiatives to make their environments more resilient in order to protect the community’s wider health.

The CEP also supports communities to install and use basic, available technologies such as adapted wood stoves and to conduct collective projects like tree-planting. We partner with environmental organizations such as Seed Program International and Taaru Askan to offer equitable access to agricultural skills training and resources for women such as quality seed. The aim is to enable community members to implement decentralized, small-scale food production and income-generation strategies that are resilient to climate change and enrich rather than degrade the land.

Finally, Tostan’s model supports the resilience of communities and women and girls more broadly through our training in leadership, financial management, and literacy to help them find new economic opportunities and build their capacity to identify and make progress on a range of areas, increasing their resilience in the face of the climate crisis and other interconnected challenges.

Community Success

Communities who have participated in our Community Empowerment Program take an active role in improving their physical environment.




Many communities now hold weekly clean-ups, joining together to pick up garbage, clear grass, and rid their environment of standing water to create a clean and healthy living space. They also construct latrines to prevent the spread of illness and parasites, build more efficient wood-burning stoves which reduce wood gathering time and overall wood consumption, and construct covers for wells to protect the water from contaminants.

Key Metrics

trees planted in The Gambia since 2021

community health and sanitation cleanups held in The Gambia 2021

improved stoves built in Mali in 2018

clean-up days held in Guinea-Bissau in 2021