Uncovering the complexity behind gender-sensitive research

Targeting women with climate information is likely to result in the adoption of CSA practices for adaptation. Photocredit: Neil Palmer (CIAT)
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Jan 20, 2015


Manon Koningstein (CIAT)


New paper suggests targeting women with climate and agricultural information is likely to result in adoption of climate-smart agricultural practices for adaptation. 

Someone once told a story about how a foreign NGO wanted to support women in East Africa to become financially independent. One of the women had recently become a widow as her husband had passed away, leaving her as the new head of the household.

The organization provided a banana tree for her to plant. Four weeks later, the NGO passed by her house and saw the banana tree lying behind her house, without it being planted. After a lot of discussions they found out that in her community women are not allowed to plant banana trees, so a man had to do it for her. But as she was a single woman, when a man plants a tree for her, her culture states that she needs to marry this man. The woman was still grieving on her husband, and did not want to re-marry yet, with the result that the banana tree was not planted.

Gender is more complex than is often thought. photocredit: neil palmer (ciat)

This story explains how gender, within agricultural development research, is much more complex than researchers often realize.  

The results of this paper seem to indicate that providing information to women, especially information about CSA practices, can help increase adoption rates of adaptation measures, including CSA,"

states CCAFS Gender expert Jennifer Twyman.

Gender is about relationship and power dynamics

Although it is often assumed that gender refers only to women, a meaningful gender analysis also considers men and the differences between men and women. 

Gender is about relationships and power dynamics; it refers to socially constructed differences between men and women and is an acquired identity that is learned, changes over time and varies widely within and across cultures (INSTRAW 2004). Gender informs differences in roles and responsibilities, access to and control over resources, and decision-making power. However, other social factors as race, class, ethnicity, religion, age, etc., also influence a person’s position in society, as well as the power dynamics that these imply (Kaijser and Kronsell 2014; Davis 2008).

caption providing information about CSA practices can help increase adoption rates of adaptation measures. photocredit: Neil palmer (ciat)

While recognizing the importance of these various social factors, a new paper entitled Adaptation Actions in Africa: Evidence that Gender Matters has identified differences between men and women, as well as introduced the discussion on other social factors influencing vulnerability to climate change. The research took place in Kenya, Uganda and Senegal.   

The research presented in the paper is a collaborative effort between the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) and Policies, Institutions and Markets (PIM) and several CGIAR centers, including the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).

Most of the data presented in the paper comes from the CCAFS gender survey, an intra-household survey that collected information in 2012 from both an adult male and female decision-maker in each of the sampled households in four sites in Africa: Nyando and Wote in Kenya, Rakai in Uganda, and Kaffrine in Senegal. This survey built upon an earlier farm characterization survey (called IMPACT-Lite) and thus used the same sample of 200 farm households in each site, which encompass a 10 by 10 km block of land.

The team analyzed descriptive statistics, gender differences in terms of perceptions of climate change, awareness and adoption of climate-smart agricultural (CSA) practices, and types and sources of agro-climatic information in these four sites.

targeting women with climate information is likely to result in the adoption of CSA practices for adaptation. photocredit: neil palmer (ciat)

Women and climate-smart agriculture practices

It was found that both men and women are experiencing changes in long-term weather patterns and that they are changing their behaviours as a response; albeit this being relatively minor shifts in existing agricultural practices. For example, the most prevalent changes reported include switching crop varieties, switching types of crops and changing planting dates. 

As expected, women are less aware of many climate-smart agriculture practices. Encouragingly, this same pattern does not hold when it comes to adoption. In many cases, in East Africa in particular, women, when aware, are more likely than, or just as likely as men, to adopt climate-smart agriculture practices, such as cross-cropping and natural manure.

For West Africa, however, the adoption of these practices was much lower. The team found that access to information from different sources vary greatly between men and women and among the sites. However, promisingly, those with access to information report using it to make changes to their agricultural practices. 

Part of this paper is summarized in The Africa Agriculture Status Report 2014: Climate Change and Smallholder Agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa, published by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).


Davis, K., 2008. "Intersectionality as buzzword: a sociology of science perspective on what makes a feminist theory useful." Feminist Theory, 9:1, 67–85.

INSTRAW. 2004. "Glossary of Gender-related Terms and Concepts." United Nations International Research & Training Institute for the Advancement of Women. Washington, DC. Available online (.doc)

Kaijser, A. and Kronsell, A. 2014. “Climate change through the lens of intersectionality.” Environmental Politics. 23:3, 417-433, DOI: 10.1080/09644016.2013.835203