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Gender-Responsive Climate Smart Agriculture

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Content overview

This section introduces the overall motivation for this training; specifically, why it is important to consider gender equality in the context of climate change mitigation and adaptation including through climate smart agricultural practices.
An abundance of materials exist on climate change and climate smart agriculture. But few of these materials address how climate smart agriculture can include women and understand women’s needs as farmers.
Most of these training materials have been produced by international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and UN agencies. These are good materials, but they can be overwhelming to agricultural extension workers and trainers.
Therefore, UN Women decided to develop a training module for extension workers, local NGOs and other smaller organizations that work with farmer households. Throughout the training, we use examples from different country contexts across Africa so that the practices can be easily used by the farmers and families in different circumstances around the continent ーand in other regions of the world.
This means we work with women and men farmers who have small plots of land and sometimes rent land from others. We also want to include landless workers who live in the villages where we work. This is not about commercial farms or contract farming. It is about improving agricultural practices and making sure that families can eat well and earn some money from what they grow.
We need to make special targeted efforts to involve women. They have children and family responsibilities. We need to encourage women to participate and to talk about what they need and how they work in the fields. We need to understand how to involve women and make sure that climate-resilient farming practices make sense to them, as well as ensure that they produce enough for their families to eat and to sell in the market.
Many African economies are more dependent on agriculture than many other countries and economies in the world. Climate change is increasing the vulnerability of agriculture and food security. In some parts of Africa, temperature increases are expected to be significantly higher than in the rest of the world.
Climate change can contribute to many other crises, such as drought, flooding, food insecurity, epidemics and violent conflict. As you can see, if we don’t act now to adapt to climate change, many more people will suffer from climate change and their lives and livelihoods will be threatened.
We know that men and women have different roles and responsibilities in their families and in their communities. If we want to do climate smart agriculture well, we need to think about these differences.
When we think about these differences between men and women, we understand why women's crops and farms may not produce as much yield or income as men’s. If they don’t have the same resources to farm such as land, tools, knowledge and technology, financial resources and access to markets, they may produce much less and earn very little. But if we change this, we can help women farmers grow more and more sustainably.
Research has indicated that if women had equal access to productive resources as men, the gap in yields and productivity between men and women could be significantly reduced.
These resources include labour, land and water, agricultural inputs, knowledge, technology, financial resources and access to markets and services.
These differences in access to resources affect women’s experience of climate change and their ability and willingness to change their agricultural practices to adapt to and mitigate climate impacts.
Women can have a hard time trying to adapt to and deal with the consequences of climate change. They often don’t own the land they work on, or only farm food crops on very small plots. They may not have tools and animals to help work the land. They also have family responsibilities to cook, clean and get water and fuelwood that make it very hard for them to attend farmer field schools.
But women need to be involved because they depend on the income from their farms in a changing climate, and often have primary responsibility for feeding their families. Climate change and the changing rains and seasons can make things worse for women. Village wells are drying up and women often must walk long distances to collect water for their families and livestock and to irrigate their fields. This means they have less time to do other things and work very long hours.
Additionally, sometimes there are no rains and all the crops fail. Or sometimes there is so much rain it floods and the fertile soil washes away. Since women have more limited means of generating income, these changes in rainfall can affect them more than men.
This training is intended to support trainers to reach women farmers and to extend and deepen climate smart agricultural practices. It also shows what is needed to achieve better outcomes by involving everyone.
When we work in communities and introduce new CSA practices, we need to ask questions that can help us understand the gender differences that may affect women’s ability and willingness to adopt CSA. We need to ask these questions to really understand how to include women in our CSA work.
Who does what? What are men’s and women’s roles in farming? How do their roles differ where you live or work? How do gender norms, what we commonly understand what men and women should do and be, affect who we are and what we do? Can they be changed?
Who has what? Do men and women have equal access to resources and opportunities? For example, do they have equal access to land, tools, credit, fertilizers and farm animals?
Who decides? Who controls or manages and makes decisions about household resources, assets and finances? Do women have a share in household decision-making? How are men and women involved in community decision-making? In the broader political sphere? Do men and women belong to cooperatives or other sorts of economic, political or social organizations?
Who benefits? Will the services or products from the CSA program benefit both men and women? Will the proposed interventions increase the incomes of men and women? Will the proposed interventions cause an increase or decrease in women’s (and men’s) workloads? Are there provisions to support women’s productive and reproductive tasks, including their unpaid domestic and care work?
As we go through our training we will come across many situations where these questions will guide our decisions about what CSA practices to introduce and where and how to ensure everyone in our community benefits. Module 4 will give us some tools that we can use to ask these questions systematically and analyze the answers to find solutions that work for everyone.
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