CGIAR Gender

CGIAR Collaborative Platform for Gender Research

Why is gender important for climate-smart agriculture?

Why is gender critical for climate-smart agriculture? Photo credit: V.Atakos/CCAFS
Why is gender important for climate-smart agriculture? Photo credit: V.Atakos/CCAFS

Gender is a critical dimension of climate-smart agriculture. There are several reasons why. Agricultural growth is one such solution to tackling issues such as food and nutrition insecurity, and poverty that climate change exacerbates. We simply are not going to see the transformative changes in agriculture and food systems that we need to see without also tackling gender issues.

With more variable rainfall and higher temperatures, most farmers will have to shift what they produce, and how they produce it. This includes putting more time, money and effort into soil and water management practices; planting trees; growing legumes; adopting stress tolerant varieties, shifting from maize to sorghum, or from cattle to goats, to name just a few examples of key climate-smart opportunities for smallholders in many regions of the world.

New research is showing just how grossly neglected and under-served smallholders, especially women farmers, within food systems in lower-income countries have been. They don’t receive the agricultural and climate information they need, and have much less access to inputs, credit and services than do men. These women not only produce food, but they also prepare it and are responsible for the nutrition of the family. So, there is definitely something wrong with this picture, and a significant opportunity to address this glaring gap.

At the farm-level, climate-smart agriculture is something farmers are already doing, but with varying degrees of success. Most recognize, and are trying to cope with, their changing climates. These climate-smart practices include tasks such as planting fruit, fodder and fuel trees on farms. These can save much time and effort for those women who go out to collect fodder and fuelwood, for example. They also can include soil conservation efforts, which in some circumstances may greatly increase women’s time spent on weeding and other tasks. Thus, we need to understand the costs and benefits of these practices, not just for households, but also for individuals and the environments in which they live.

Turning these challenges into opportunities however, is easier said than done. How can we best tap into the potential of women farmers? How can we keep young people in farming and create good jobs for them elsewhere in the food system?

We now recognize why we need to do this, so it’s time to put more resources into figuring out the ‘what’ and the ‘how’.

The new gender and climate-smart agriculture sourcebook module ,launched by the World Bank (WB), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Fund For Agricultural Development (IFAD) in recognition of International Rural Women’s day summarizes experiences and lessons to date on this topic. Knowledge generated by agricultural researchers and development agencies, including CGIAR and its many partners worldwide, is highlighted in this practical sourcebook aimed at development partners, governments and others designing agricultural research and development programs and projects.

For gender to be recognized as a critical component in climate-smart agricultural practices, the following actions are needed:

1) invest in ‘action research’ initiatives that are testing new farming practices and value-added activities with women as well as men. We need to learn together what works best, and how to support all those producing food in different environments, in a wide range of farming systems;

2) catalyze and support strategic and structured partner engagement efforts, with local governments, private sector, and civil society organizations working closely with women, as well as men farmers and other food system actors;

3) strengthen the capacity of these partners in gender-disaggregated data collection and analysis, and forward-looking and inclusive, evidence-based local adaptation planning efforts;

4) test innovative communication strategies, together with private and public sector partners in many countries, to reach more women and youth with much needed information on exciting new options and opportunities in agriculture.

Note: This blog post, submitted by Patti Kristjanson, a senior research fellow with the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) is in relation to a new Gender in Climate-Smart Agriculture Sourcebook, which she co-authored and was recently launched, in partnership with the World Bank (WB), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Fund For Agricultural Development (IFAD), in recognition of International Rural Women’s Day 2015.

Related resources:

Gender in Climate-Smart Agriculture Sourcebook (World Bank/FAO/IFAD) (pdf)

Gender and inclusion toolbox: Participatory research in climate change and agriculture (pdf)

Understanding gender dimensions of agriculture and climate change in smallholder farming communities (Climate and Development)  (pdf)

Institutions and gender in the adoption of climate-smart agriculture: Evidence from Kenya  (pdf)

Closing the relevance gap: Lessons in co-developing gender transformative research approaches with development partners and communities (pdf)

Understanding Gender Dimensions of Agriculture and Climate Change in Smallholder Farming Communities. Climate and Development.

How resilient are farming households, communities, men and women to a changing climate in Africa? Global Environmental Change 34:95-107.