Addressing gender and social inequality

P. Vishwanathan (CCAFS)

Supporting women farmers to lead climate-smart innovations

Latin America
Southeast Asia
South Asia
Low Emissions Development

An action research project—led by CCAFS partner PROLINNOVA, an international network on promoting local innovation—found that bringing women farmers into the search for low emission agricultural innovations can help to protect women’s well-being, ensure food security and mitigate climate change.

Just as climate change affects men and women differently, so to do responses to it. Women tend to be sidelined in the design of agricultural reforms aiming to reduce emissions, leading to initiatives that reinforce or even exacerbate gender divisions. This can be self-defeating, however, as women play an important role in agriculture and have much to contribute in the search for new approaches to climate-friendly agriculture.

Researchers look at how resourceful women solve problems and provide leadership within communities, despite the numerous hurdles they face

Researchers look at how resourceful women solve problems and provide leadership within communities, despite the numerous hurdles they face. E. van de Grift

The purpose of this research was to enable women farmers in Bangladesh, Cambodia and Honduras to test different mitigation tools and approaches. In a pilot project in Bangladesh, participants experimented with natural fertilizers, pesticides and eco-stoves, while the Honduras project—focusing on eco-stoves and agro forestry—was the first in the country to measure carbon sequestration at the farm level.

In Cambodia, participants tested bioslurry (a by-product from biogas production), biochar (derived from partial combustion of woody biomass in gasifier cook stoves) and conventional compost to identify the right combinations for different vegetables and soil types.

The research found that women farmers do have an important role to play in local innovation. In Honduras, for example, women re-designed eco-stoves to meet local needs, sometimes through several iterations. They were social innovators, too, designing agroforestry systems where trees would fruit at the same time as the coffee crop, allowing families with distant farms to relocate en masse to harvest all tree crops.

Bringing women and men together to test climate-friendly agriculture has helped change relationships between them for the better. Women in Honduras and Cambodia described increased confidence in their own technical capacities as well as their increased control over decision making and the benefits of agricultural production.

The research projects have also helped increase local capacity for and commitment to innovation. In Cambodia, the local government is supporting continued experimentation with biochar while 2 organic fertilizers used by in the Honduras research are integrated into the avocado research programme of the Honduran Office of Science and Agricultural Technology.

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