HerstoryofChange - Pauline's Story

Pauline is an environmental scientist, graduated in environmental engineering and biology, with a strong antenna for international solidarity. As an environmental scientist, she was associated with research institutes in Sweden, India, Cambodia and France until she accidentally ended up at UNIVERS-SEL. She worked in the salt marshes of Guérande, in southern Brittany, as a seasonal worker to harvest fleur de sel, a slightly moist sea salt with a crystalline structure. There she got to know the organization UNIVERS-SEL and heard about their work in Guinea-Bissau. Coincidentally, a position became available. She then spent two years in Guinea-Bissau working with female salt producers.

In 2019, Pauline, along with the organization UNIVERS-SEL was the technical solution winner at the Gender Just Climate Solution Awards Ceremony, an annually recurring event at the UNFCCC Climate Summit , organized by WECF International and the Women & Gender Constituency.

Salt was originally extracted by burning a lot of wood. The traditional technique consists of collecting salt-laden soil that women filter with water. This gives a saltwater brine that women cook over a fire pit. With the solar technology developed by UNIVERS-SEL, the first steps to produce the brine remain the same, but then the women place this brine on liners in salt basins. A salt crust forms due to the natural power of the sun and wind. Burning wood is therefore no longer necessary. The introduction of these production methods not only strengthens women's rights, but also enhances biodiversity and the environment. Two cooperatives were established. The women therefore participate at all levels in the decision-making process and also control the sale of the salt. This way of working not only improved women's earnings but also reduced their workload.

“The women are now successful independent entrepreneurs, while at the same time contributing to combating climate change.” - Pauline Lançon
Why is the salt production so important?

UNIVERS-SEL combines traditional knowledge with innovative technologies to harvest salt but also rice and manage mangroves in a sustainable way. Thanks to the sharing of ancestral knowledge and the use of innovative techniques, female producers contribute to structuring and developing the salt and rice value chain in the mangroves. This is combined with trainings in the field of entrepreneurship. As a result, women play an essential role in sustainable salt and rice production in the mangroves.

Results of UNIVERS-SEL
  • 2 salt producers’ associations created by 200 women in 4 villages.
  • 1,000 salt producers and 500 rice producers adopted new, climate resilient technologies.
  • Food security improved for 30,000 people.
  • Firewood consumption: 3 tons less firewood for each ton of salt produced.
  • Community-based and ecosystem-based coastal management.
"Thanks to the sharing of ancestral know-how and innovative techniques and capacity-building activities, women producers contribute to structure and develop the salt and rice value chain in the mangroves." - Pauline Lançon

What's so special about Pauline's project?

This project improves the lives of women and communities in the mangroves of Guinea-Bissau through sustainable use of space, energy and natural resources. 2000 family farms, 75% of which are run by women, have adopted sustainable methods of salt extraction and rice production, with solar energy and less water consumption. Thanks to the sharing of ancestral knowledge and the use of innovative techniques, female producers contribute to structuring and developing the salt and rice value chain in the mangroves. Solar salt production and sustainable water management also improved working conditions, health and yields. Women gained new technical skills and management capacities. They established 2 producers’ associations where 200 members gained control and decision-making power over their value chain and markets. Training and monitoring activities have enabled women to play a leading role in stabilizing the local economy and protecting ecosystems. The project is recognized as a relevant community-based climate strategy.

Over 1,500 women and 500 men have gained autonomy through increased income and their integration into the local economy, while adapting to the effects of climate change, with innovative salt and rice production technologies that preserve the mangroves and drastically reduce firewood consumption. They are now successful independent entrepreneurs, while at the same time contributing to combating climate change!

Our Solutions

Women bear an outsize burden of the global warming crisis, largely because of gender inequalities. They are often the ones who work in the fields or at home and are the first victims of drought, flood or climate-related disasters. At the same time, women and their organizations can play a fundamental role as producers of food and as consumers of energy and water and hold the key to change in the fight against climate change. That is why we want to provide space for the stories of inspiring champions in the field of gender equality and the fight against climate change and environmental pollution.

With this in mind, we organize, together with the Women and Gender constituency, an annual Award ceremony during the global climate negotiations, the Gender Just Climate Solutions Awards, where we identify the most outstanding grassroots climate actions that have women leadership and promote gender-equality. We know the solutions to a more sustainable future already exist – and it is time to showcase them and demand change!

Impact of the Award for Pauline and UNIVERS-SEL

The Award grant and the accompanying mentor program was used for training and knowledge building in the field of both production and trade in solar technology products. . The introduction of solar salt production techniques not only strengthens the position of women, but also benefits the environment. During the two years in Guinea-Bissau she learned to speak Creole and learned a lot about the country but also about herself. Adaptation and patience have become keywords for her, in a country where everything is possible, but nothing is certain and where you often need to adjust your plans, from A to B, to C, to F and G. Or like she was told when she first arrived in Guinea Bissau "You have to learn to dance to the rhythm of the tamtam".

Read more about our campaign through #Herstoryofchange.

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WECF is a nonprofit network dedicated to a gender just and healthy planet for all. Our international network consists of over 150 women’s and civil society organisations implementing projects in 50 countries. We believe that a sustainable future and environment needs holistic solutions reflecting the lives of people on the ground. We believe in feminist solutions based on our partners’ visions and needs. That is why we work on transformative gender equality and women’s human rights in interconnection with climate justice, sustainable energy, less toxic waste & safe water & sanitation for all.

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