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Climate Smart Agriculture Sourcebook

The role of gender in Climate-Smart Agriculture

Enabling Frameworks

Gender-specific impact of climate-smart agriculture practices

Almost all climate-smart agriculture activities assume that individuals or groups, depending on their property rights, can make decisions about how to use land, forests, water, and other resources and derive some benefits when improvements are made in how these resources are managed.  However, due to gender-specific constraints, this assumption is often not valid. There is a need to promote careful gender-responsive programming and implementation for climate-smart agriculture initiatives.

Climate-smart agriculture practices differ in terms of labour and time requirements, the degree to which they lead to greater empowerment for agricultural producers, and their economic benefits and costs. Their introduction may have direct implications for women’s welfare, working conditions, agricultural production, gender relationships and women’s empowerment. 

Figure C6.4 assesses the gender impact of selected climate-smart agriculture practices based on evidence to date, and insights are provided in the boxes below, related to agroforestry, conservation agriculture, fisheries and livestock management.  

Figure C6.4. Analysis of climate-smart agriculture practices from a gender perspective

Climate-smart agriculture options/ practices

Contribution to climate-smart agriculture objectives relating to:

Gender impact

Climate change adaptation

Mitigation (reducing greenhouse gases)

Women’s control of income from practice

Relative amount of time until benefits are realized

Stress-tolerant varieties

High

Low

Low

Low

High-yielding varieties

Low

Low

Low

Low

Conservation agriculture

High

Medium

Low

High

Improved home gardens

High

Medium

High

Low

On-farm tree planting

High

High

Low

High

Composting

Medium

Medium

Medium

Low

Small-scale irrigation

High

Low

Low-Medium

Low

Fodder shrubs

High

Medium - High

High

Medium

Herbaceous legumes 

High

Medium

High

Medium

Improved grasses (e.g. Napier)

High

Medium

High

Low

Livestock genetic improvement

High

Medium

Low - High

High

Restoration of degraded rangeland

High

High

Low

High

 

Climate-smart agriculture options/ practices


Requirements for adoption of practice

Relative amount of time until benefits are realized

Potential for women to benefit from increased productivity

Female and youth labour availability

Female access to and control of land

Female access to water for agriculture

Female access to cash and ability to spend it

Stress-tolerant varieties

Low

Medium

Medium

High

Low

High

High-yielding varieties

Low

High

Medium

High

High

High

Conservation agriculture

High

High

Low-Medium

High

Low

Low

Improved home gardens

Low

High

High

High

High

High

On-farm tree planting

High

Medium

High initially; Low later

High

High

Medium

Composting

Low

Medium

High

Medium

Low

Low

Small-scale irrigation

Low

High

Medium

High

High

Medium

Fodder shrubs

Medium

Medium

High

High

Medium

Low - Medium

Herbaceous legumes 

Medium

High

High

High

Medium

Low - Medium

Improved grasses (e.g. Napier)

Low

High

High

High

Medium

Low

Livestock genetic improvement

High

High

Low - High

Low

High

Medium

Restoration of degraded rangeland

High

High

Low - High

High

Low

Low

Source: World Bank, FAO and IFAD, 2015 

Box C6.2  Gender implications in agroforestry development

Women often have a strong preference for engaging in agroforestry (see Module B5). It requires minimal inputs, particularly in terms of cash and labour, and the benefits it delivers (e.g. food, fuelwood and fodder) are particularly important in times of need. Agroforestry also plays an important role in activities that are generally considered part of women’s domain, such as the harvesting and processing of indigenous fruits and vegetables, and the gathering of fodder and mulch.

However, women’s involvement in marketing agroforestry products is usually confined to small retail trade, while men dominate the wholesale trade and timber production. Women also have less access to the productive resources and services they need to improve agroforestry practices, and limited opportunities to obtain information and training. 

Possible interventions aimed at reducing the gender gap in agroforestry include integrating tree species that provide fuelwood, fodder, shade, and fruit into the agroforesty production system rather than concentrating on tree species used for poles and timber, which are managed largely by men. Other possible interventions involve improving storage and processing methods; increasing women’s access to extension services, market information and financial institutions; strengthening women's participation in local institutions and farmers’ organizations; and developing new high-value agroforesty products, such as oil, soap and juices. 

A CARE forest management project in Zanzibar in the United Republic of Tanzania, supported women in engaging as key producers and consumers of forest goods and services through community forest management agreements. The project also reduced unsustainable wood consumption by promoting improved cook stoves, which also improved domestic air quality. This shows that when gender is considered at design phase in climate-smart agriculture projects, multiple benefits can be gained in terms of livelihoods, women's empowerment, governance and health.

Box C6.3 Gender aspects in conservation agriculture

Conservation agriculture, which involves minimizing mechanical soil disturbance, keeping a permanent organic soil cover and diversifying crop rotations, can deliver many benefits (see module B1). However, conservation agriculture usually alters workloads over time, and this has important implications for labour requirements and the allocation of tasks both within and outside the household (Beuchelt, 2013). When adapting conservation agriculture systems to the specific needs of a given household or community, there needs to be a clear understanding of who will benefit and in what way. This involves taking into account the gender relations within the specific social context; the gender roles in decision-making over the adoption of new technologies and practices; access to productive assets and extension and advisory services, including climate advisories; and women’s specific roles in the production system.

The FAO Conservation Agriculture Scaling Up (CASU) programme in Zambia has developed a comprehensive database and monitoring and evaluation system that allows gender-disaggregated analyses at the household level. Studies from CASU sentinel sites also provide information on the effects of the adoption of conservation agriculture on women’s time-poverty and work burden.

Box C6.4 Gender aspects in fisheries and aquaculture 

Though women are involved as fishers and make up half of the workforce of this sector, there are many constraints and barriers on their active involvement. “Pond tenure” in the aquaculture sector is also highly gendered: due to restrictions on their mobility, women tend to be managers of backyard aquaculture ponds. While women are highly engaged in all fisheries subsectors (fish, seaweed, crab, shrimp) they tend to be involved in less profitable components of the value chain, like post harvest processes and vending. The lack of access to capital and to the resources required for refrigeration can result in higher losses and lower quality of products among women entrepreneurs, gradually undermining their efforts. Gender-responsive climate smart activities can be designed to enhance feed management, access to higher value markets, flexible capture strategies to allow for change in fish distribution. Activities can also include community based small-scale fisheries management, mangrove forests management, supporting diversification strategies for coastal communities, marine and coastal ecosystem improvements and adaptation planning, waste management from aquaculture.  For example, micro-savings groups among women aquaculturalists have proved to allow them to expand their production through the adoption of new, climate-smart practices in Nepal (Pant et al., 2012).

Box C6.5  Gender aspects in livestock management

Livestock defines the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of millions of rural men and women across the world, many living in dryland conditions. Pastoral communities, who depend on livestock and opportunistic farming for their livelihoods in particular, are the hardest hit by the impacts of climate change and climate variability. Livestock is often one of the few sources of income over which women have complete control, and such smaller livestock can have significant implications for household nutrition, income and health. Women also do not have equal access to trainings and other resources for livestock rearing, as extension systems are often insensitive and unresponsive to their production needs. Climate change is impacting water sources as well as pasture ecosystems that livestock depend on and the frequency of various vector-borne livestock diseases as well. Along with improvements in water management practices, feed and pasture management to ensure availability of feed during times of stress is a critical area of intervention. Key gender-responsive activities can include participatory rangeland planning and management, improved extension, access to technology, improvements in feed, animal vaccination programs, preventing parasites and vector borne diseases, management of herd size and age, increasing heat tolerance of animals through breeding programs or introduction of new breeds, and installation of specific cooling technologies for livestock. Increasingly livestock insurance and early warning systems for various hazards are being piloted. In Niger, CARE’s Adaptation Learning Programme developed innovative community-based adaptation approaches and strategies with pastoralist communities, assessing the implications for women, men, households and the community as a whole, in terms of time, labour, resources and social relations. Different roles and responsibilities were then negotiated between women and men in the communities to encourage a more sustainable and equitable division of labour as part of increasing the adaptive capacity of the community as a whole. An example of integrated interventions was providing Village Savings and Loans, institutional capacity building, training and improved access to climate information. These interventions worked together to improve women’s livelihoods and place in society and built community resilience.