Building African women's resilience for a changing climate

Woman farmer in Kenya. Climate change adaptation strategies for women took center stage at the COP22 side event. Photo: J. Ogweno

Delegates at a COP22 side event discussed climate change adaptation strategies that prioritized the needs of women. 

Research has revealed the different preferences, needs, and priorities that men and women have when responding to climate change. Through gender-disaggregated data, the development community is better understanding the gender differences in the perception and impact of climate change, the ability to adopt practices and technologies that will allow for adaptive capacity, and how to increase resilience amongst smallholder farmers. Building women’s resilience to climate change was the main topic at a COP22 side event, organized by the CGIAR program on Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security (CCAFS), and its partners CARE and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). Delegates at the event discussed climate change adaptation strategies that could best assist women as they manage the challenges of a changing climate.

within the agricultural sector, the needs of women go beyond food production

One such delegate, Ms. Ilaria Firmian, shared IFAD’s work towards strengthening gender equality and women’s empowerment in agriculture adaptation programmes. In her presentation, Ms. Firmian noted that “IFAD’s gender-sensitive activities in Ghana and Mali are geared towards facilitating women’s access to productive resources and improving their access to water and energy.” The presentation illustrated that, within the agricultural sector, the needs of women go beyond food production. If women are going to truly build climate change resilience, other sectors, such as water and energy, must also be considered.  

Along with promoting inclusive governance and increased resilience, CARE is committed to gender equality and increasing women’s voices. To this end, CARE’s Ms. Emma Bowa discussed her organization’s work on gender responsive actions, including the Adaptation Learning Programme (ALP). ALP works with community groups to help all members of the community increase their adaptation skills and adopt climate-resilient livelihood strategies such as agricultural diversification. Additionally, the program helps to increase women’s economic and social empowerment through financial and decision-making independence and access to new communication channels, such as mobile phones. Working with policy and decision makers that can influence gender responsive policies and investments for women, is also an important and difficult component of ALP. As Ms. Bowa noted, “working with policy makers requires commitment, persistence and incredible leadership to influence their thinking towards gender equality and mainstreaming gender into national policies, programs and projects.”

African women are hard hit when drought and floods occur, as they do not own or control resources needed for adaptation

The high proportion of African women involved in agriculture, about 84 percent, was highlighted by the African Development Bank’s (AfDB) Dr. James Kinyangi. According to Dr. Kinyangi, African women are hard hit when drought and floods occur, as they do not own or control resources needed for adaptation. Recognizing the clear need for women to have access to finance and climate information services, the AfDB, is now including gender equality as a critical development agenda. It aims to accelerate progress by focusing gender mainstreaming and women’s economic empowerment.

“The AfDB is now paying close attention to gender-responsive adaptation actions and is working with countries to include gender mainstreaming within their projects and programs,” Dr. Kinyangi said. The AfDB is also working towards reducing the financial gap amongst rural women who mainly derive their livelihoods from agricultural activities. For a number of reasons, including lack of resource for collateral, social cultural barriers and lack of financial literacy, rural women farmers have limited access to credit. One method of counteracting this restricted access is through innovative financial models that lift constraints to formal credit. One example of this is Tanzania’s Exim Bank and its Tumaini Account, which targets women clients. Another example is Nigeria’s Access Bank that uses “women-friendly” collateral options.

Another technology that helps to strengthen innovative financial models are mobile technologies. Mobile banking is rapidly integrating previously unreachable and unbanked rural women into formal markets. It also allows for financial institutions to create support programs for women agricultural entrepreneurship. Similar to the incorporation of women into the formal banking sector, Ms. Firman noted IFAD’s “selection of agricultural value chains and investments that specifically target women.”

These strategies illustrate that incorporating gender responsive climate finance mechanism and strategies in agriculture sector will enhance resilience, increase food security, and move the world closer to achieving the sustainable development goals.

Read more:

Mary Nyasimi is Science officer at the CCAFS Gender and Social Inclusion Flagship. Click to read more coverage of CCAFS events at COP22.