Scientific Publication

Moving Beyond Sisyphus in Agriculture R&D to Be Climate Smart and Not Gender Blind


Gender differentiation in small-scale farming and agriculture and the need to recognize and act on the “feminization” of agricultural development are critical to poverty reduction. Evidence now demonstrates that the shocks resulting from climate risks to agriculture and food security, and related adaptive responses, are highly gender-differentiated. However, agricultural research and development have not delivered the transformative changes needed in small-scale farming from a poverty eradication and gender equality perspective, and particularly to support women adapt to climate risks. A range of responses to climate change, including that referred to as climate smart agriculture (CSA), have been introduced. These strive to enable changes in the ways that issues related to crop and livestock productivity, the climate adaptive capacity of small-scale agriculture, and the carbon footprint of farming are investigated and technologies transferred. However, international agriculture research and development have struggled to find effective ways of integrating gender equality dimensions into the processes and outcomes of agriculture programmes. High level strategic decisions have not prioritized resources for gender equality work resulting in CSA too often being gender blind. Knock-on effects down the research and development strata have meant that some development agencies have taken up a CSA approach without addressing gender inequalities. While others, including some international non-government organizations, are pushing for greater attention to gender equality in agricultural development. Methodological remedies that can enable gender equality to be better addressed through agricultural research and development have been identified from tool-boxes to epistemological change. But without a change in high level prioritization of resources the potential for a climate smart and gender responsive international agriculture research and development remains a task similar to that of Sisyphus.