Researchers are taking steps to close the gender gap in agriculture
Ownership of assets, access to resources such as land, labor, credit, insurance, information, and technology and ability to make decisions plays an important role in both agricultural production and adaptation to climate change. Recently, the journal of Gender, Technology and Development released a special issue exploring gender-based disparities in resource access and its contribution to uneven production levels between men and women. As farmers continue to develop methods of climate change adaptation, unequal access to resources could prevent women from adapting at the same pace as their male counterparts.
The July 2016 special issue, titled 'Gender, Climate Change and Agriculture', continues the international conversation that was begun at a March 2015 seminar co-organized by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), the International Social Science Council (ISSC) and Future Earth. Articles featured in the special edition include researchers from the National University of Ireland Galway, Central European University, International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), World Bank, and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). Sophia Huyer, who leads Gender and Social Inclusion research for CCAFS, served as a special editor and contributed her own article on climate change and gender to argue and advocate for gender-based climate adaptation strategies. Findings presented in the special issue demonstrate that providing women with engagement opportunities and adaptation resources will greatly reduce the variance in agricultural productivity between men and women, which currently range from four to 25 percent globally. Read more: Closing the Gender Gap in Agriculture
For instance, research shows that in comparison to men, women have limited access to irrigation, information and communication technologies (ICTs), and extension services. Furthermore, the available agricultural technologies do not take into account the specific needs of women. Technologies that focus on large-scale agricultural enterprises, for instance, are often not appropriate for women, who are more likely to be in charge of smaller plots of land. With the changing climate, the full adoption of climate change adaptation practices will rely on providing women with equitable access to resources and building their capacity in areas such as alternative income generating initiatives, financial literacy, and use of innovative low-cost communication technologies, such as mobile phones (short messaging services and call centers), which have the ability to reach more women farmers, thus enabling them not only to make farming decisions but empower them as well. A word of caution is necessary in that, technologies developed and disseminated should not exacerbate existing inequities. Read more: Role of Mobile Phone-enabled Climate Information Services in Gender-inclusive Agriculture by S. Mittal (CIMMYT).
Development organizations can also implement a gendered perspective when engaged in food security work. Research findings reveal that men and women have different needs from organizations and views on food security. For instance, women tend to value local organizations and appear to be less connected to external ones. An analysis of food security perceptions indicate that, while men are more production focused, women have broader perceptions of food security. Read more: Connecting Women, Connecting Men: How Communities and Organizations Interact to Strengthen Adaptive Capacity and Food Security in the Face of Climate Change by L. Cramer et al. (CCAFS-ILRI).
Overall, the risk of leaving women out of the ongoing climate conversation is detrimental not only to women, but to the entire community. Women are often key holders of local knowledge and can be incredible drivers of innovation. Around the world, women have played an important role in climate change recovery and adaptation with recent examples including the use of local knowledge to locate drill sites for wells in Micronesia and to help build resiliency strategies in Fiji. Additionally, a feminist perspective calls for a more nuanced view of gender-sensitive climate change adaptations and question the role of these technologies in perpetuating potentially harmful gender roles. Read more: Climate Change, "Technology" and Gender: Adapting Women to Climate Change with Cooking Stoves and Water Reservoirs by N. Gonda (Central European University).
The examples highlighted in the special issues indicate the potential of agriculture-based innovation to strengthen and increase women’s and their communities’ adaptive capacity. As the global community continues to grabble with the challenges of climate change, especially in the agriculture sectors, development and utilization of gender sensitive and gender transformative innovations and technologies should be a key component.
Read the special issue: Gender, Climate Change and Agriculture