GENDER insights

A call from Sharm-El Sheikh to reimagine our food systems

De Haan Photo: Joe Nkadaani/CIFOR.

As the world grapples with climate change and economic crisis, bringing women and young farmers to the decision-making table, giving them more resources and a voice, is necessary to achieve resilience and climate justice for all.

Against the backdrop of global climate change effects, the CGIAR GENDER Impact Platform, International Potato Center (CIP), Accelerating Impacts of CGIAR Climate Research for Africa (AICCRA) and Building Systemic Resilience Against Climate Variability and Extremes (ClimBeR) co-hosted a side event dubbed “How can we help women and youth build resilience against climate change?” during the 27th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27) in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.   

In her opening remarks, Nicoline de Haan, Director, CGIAR GENDER Impact Platform, quoted the IPCC Sixth Assessment report, which assesses the impacts of climate change:

“The IPCC report says we will need two to three times more water in the future for agriculture. What does this mean for women?” de Haan asked and added, “We need to reimagine our systems.”  

De Haan urged that this calls for understanding the root causes of climate change, listening and reflecting on the voices and needs of all those who have been marginalized, whose voices have been silenced. 

With the scene thus set, session speakers went on to propose how to engage women and youth for reimagined, stronger and more resilient food systems.

Participants at the event (Photo: CGIAR)

Engage and invest in young women and men

Food systems play a big role economically as a source of employment, especially in developing countries. But, coupled with the global climate change effects, many young people have been seeking away from agriculture, said Alphaxrd Gitau, Director and Founder, Alpham Fresh Limited, Kenya. Passionate about young farmers, Gitau painted a picture of how changing the approach to youth engagement in food systems can boost their involvement in agriculture and build their resilience to climate change: 

“We are in a situation where, in Africa, the youth margin is getting bigger and bigger, while employment opportunities are dwindling. But we have opportunities in the food systems sector to provide opportunities for young people to engage.”  To build resilience among young people, Gitau continued, “stakeholders need to ask themselves, ‘How do we make it profitable?’” Agriculture should be profitable, not sexy, he stated.

“Let us have programs and policies, but as you develop them, have young people at the table," he noted.

According to Gitau, this will challenge stakeholders in food systems to direct resources to the right places. Besides, Gitau noted that every young person can find opportunities within the agriculture value chain.

“Not every young person can be an agripreneur, but every young person can be employed in the agriculture sector.”   

Acknowledge diversity among youth and women

Following his remarks on engaging youth, Gitau emphasized that young people should not be considered a homogeneous group, but a group with diverse and different capabilities and options that need to be harnessed through inclusivity:

“There is a need to acknowledge and account for diversity among young people. Have you asked them what they need to do to engage and build their resilience?”

Todd Crane, Principal Scientist, Climate Change Adaptation, at International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), also stressed the importance of looking at youth with a diversity lens:

"In social inclusion language and programming, we tend to say 'women and youth'. But, women and youth are entirely separate categories. Youth is transitional, a temporary stage. Young men and women have very different concerns, access to opportunities, priorities and constrains that need to be treated distinctively. We need to be very careful of not lumping together women and youth haphazardly.” 

Turning the discussion to how to include such diverse voices, Jackline Makokha, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate (UNFCCC) National Gender and Climate Change Focal Point for Kenya, said that

Participation should be inclusive. One of the issues locking out young people and women, who have lived the impacts of climate change, is the process to access such platforms as COP27.

With regard to policy, Makokha added, “The policy might be good, but the implementation is sometimes culturally driven. Be inclusive in policy development and implementation. Young people and women’s voices should find space at the decision-making table.” 

Build capacities and provide access to resources 

Elizabeth Akaba, a farmer from Ghana, shares her experiences (Photo: CGIAR)

Giving young people and women more resources is important in supporting them build resilience against climate change, speakers agreed. 

Elizabeth Akaba, a famer in Ghana, who has participated in AICCRA’S Farmer Field Days, where AICCRA shares knowledge of climate-smart agriculture innovations to improve crop production with local communities, shared her experience. In Ghana, she leads the Tuba Women Farmers Association that supports youth and women farmers with resources.

“To support each other as farmers, sometimes we buy our input as a group. If a farmer does not have resources, they can get it on credit and pay once they harvest,” she said. 

To address resilience in food systems in the face of climate change effects, panelists also agreed that capacity building is necessary to educate women, men and young farmers as well as provide them with information on climate change. 

“The rainfall patterns in Ghana have changed. Formerly we relied on the rains, but through capacity building by AICCRA, we now do irrigation,” Akaba testified. She said women and youth require education: “When you educate the youth and women, you help a nation. We are aiming for youth in the future to take farming very seriously.” 

Makokha echoed the need for capacity building among women and youth:

“In the UNFCCC gender action plan, one of the priority areas is capacity building and knowledge management. There have been some efforts toward building knowledge and encouraging sharing of best practices that have worked in various countries.” 

Speaking of climate-smart agriculture, Nozomi Kawarazuka, Social Scientist at the International Potato Center (CIP), called for more co-development of agricultural technologies: 

“The low adoption of technologies is an emerging issue. But do they fit women’s and youth’s needs? Technologies are available, but many can’t afford them. We need to address this, co-design and co-develop with marginalized people, especially women farmers.”

 Adopting climate-smart agriculture will not only help to build more sustainable food systems that are safe and secure to the environment, but will also improve livelihoods, she added.

Jackline Makokha, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate (UNFCCC) National Gender and Climate Change Focal Point for Kenya, speaks at the event

“Nothing for us without us”

Speakers concluded that listening to women and youth is paramount for achieving resilient and sustainable food systems in the face of climate change. 

On his part, Crane emphasized the importance of representation at institutional and governance levels, such as through cooperatives, so that women’s and youth’s voices are heard in those spaces.

“Access to representation at the institutional and governance level—to give a sense of ownership for youth so they feel they have a voice—is critical.” 

Akaba concurred and emphasized the need for women to be empowered to express themselves, rather than keeping quiet,

“As a leader, I have tried to educate the women in my community to stand up and talk in public.”

In her final remarks, Makokha condensed the session into a striking one-liner:

“We can have the bold slogan of ‘nothing for us without us’. ‘Nothing for women without women’ and ‘nothing for youth without youth’.”

Watch the recording of this event below: