GENDER insights

A learning agenda on gender-responsive climate-smart agriculture

Maize farmers Photo: Peter Lower/CIMMYT 

A new learning agenda can point out learning gaps and set research priorities for organizations working to ensure that women benefit equally from climate-smart agriculture.

Climate change impacts every aspect of agriculture and food systems, from production to consumption, affecting the lives and livelihoods of women and men in myriad ways. The impacts are not ‘gender neutral,’ but are shaped by pervasive and entrenched gender inequalities and structural barriers. Women and men experience climate change differently based on their roles and responsibilities within these systems. Women are key actors in food systems as producers, wage workers, processors, traders and consumers. Compared with men, women are more vulnerable to chronic food and nutrition insecurity as well as to shock-induced food insecurity.  

Women are more affected than men by climate hazards because they lack access to and control over productive resources, information, finance and opportunities. Restrictive social norms and practices further limit their ability to cope with climate change impacts. In several regions, as men migrate for non-farm work opportunities to contend with livelihood losses, women continue to depend on agriculture and are vulnerable to climate hazards. It is, therefore, important that we are able to provide agricultural technologies and an enabling environment that can enhance women’s resilience to climate change. 

Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) is an integrated approach to managing landscapes—cropland, livestock, forests and fisheries—that addresses the interlinked challenges of food security and accelerating climate change. It includes practices, technologies and institutions to achieve three objectives: 1) sustainably increase agricultural productivity and incomes (productivity) 2) adapt and build resilience to climate change (adaptation) and 3) reduce or remove GHG emissions when and where appropriate (mitigation). 

Evidence shows that the ‘gender gaps’ women face affect their adaptation options. Women are often expected to contribute their labor to new CSA activities (weeding, processing, etc.) and have to balance the labor-reducing and labor-saving technologies. Available evidence suggests that CSA can benefit and enhance the agency of women. For example, in Nepal, use of climate-smart technology by women farmers not only improved their productivity and incomes but also reduced their drudgery. Enhanced knowledge and capacities through activities in climate-smart villages enabled women farmers to improve their decision-making and promoted gender equalities within the households. 

However, systematic evidence on CSA and gender is scant, and we need to ensure women are not left out but do benefit equally from these efforts. 

Farmer Parbati Risal helps harvest an on-farm maize trial plot in Shankarbasti, Bardiya in Nepal. (Photo P. Lowe/CIMMYT)

Making CSA ‘gender smart’

To be able to inform research, development and policy priorities that can make CSA gender smart, the CGIAR GENDER Impact Platform is co-creating a learning agenda that includes key evidence and knowledge gaps, priority learning questions and associated activities. A learning agenda is a set of proposed questions and activities, identified based on documented knowledge gaps, that can help guide future research toward under-studied areas where more evidence is sorely needed.

The multi-stakeholder process to co-create this learning agenda on CSA and gender included several workshops, enriched by inputs from an evidence review. In total, 227 relevant sources published between 2010-2021 were reviewed. It emerged from this process that while differential vulnerability has attracted a lot of attention and scholarship, there is very little evidence on gender-differentiated impacts of CSA and several other key dimensions. The priority learning gaps that are emerging are as follows: 

  • Gendered adoption and impacts of CSA interventions: Systematically analyzing the economic, social and environmental benefits and trade-offs of adoption of CSA for women and men as well as effective approaches for scaling gender-responsive CSA.
  • Enhancing resilience and empowerment of women in agriculture through CSA: Identifying the technologies, processes and unpacking pathways that help women and men toward resilience to climate change.
  • Potential of and pathways for CSA to be transformative for women: Developing evidence-based strategies to enhance transformative potential of CSA, including bridging gender gaps, collective action, strengthening women’s voices in policy processes, capacity development and infusing diverse gender-transformative approaches. 
  • Research to accelerate women’s CSA adoption and empowerment: Conducting biophysical, economic, social, institutional and policy research that can maximize change and movement toward gender equality in and through CSA.
  • Catalyzing multi-dimensional policies and multi-sectoral coordination to promote gender-responsive CSA: Understanding information needs of policy makers and effective ways of policy engagement and multi-sectoral stakeholder processes. 
  • Engaging the private sector to promote gender-equitable CSA: Developing the business case for private sector investments and designing effective models.
  • Climate financing models for gender-responsive CSA: Developing and adapting models for inclusive financing for CSA that can advance women’s empowerment and gender equality.
  • Mitigation: Understanding the social, economic and environmental costs of mitigation options for women and men, and ensuring women are not left out of mitigation strategies.

Using an interactional lens to effectively respond to needs and preferences of various socio-economic groups of women across all these areas will be critical. 

Uses of learning agenda for CGIAR and partners

The learning agenda will inform a six-year gender research-for-development strategy on gender and climate-smart agriculture for CGIAR. It will thus form the basis for research projects and programs focused on filling priority knowledge and evidence gaps. It can support researchers and development practitioners to produce actionable strategies and approaches that would enhance the synergies between development and application of climate-smart agriculture, gender equality and women’s empowerment. The learning agenda aligns with CGIAR’s strategy to advance transformation of food, land and water systems in a climate crisis, including by filling knowledge gaps to help meet global and national targets on gender equality and climate action.

The CGIAR GENDER Impact Platform will publish the full learning agenda on climate-smart agriculture and gender later in 2022.