Background

“Earlier, when it used to rain, by the time we picked our sack to protect us it would get wet and we too would be full of water...now most of the time there is hardly a drizzle.” – Male farmer

“No Rains, no agriculture, no crops is forcing us to take loans.” – Female farmer

“We will decide as we are the owners and we bear the input costs.” – Male farmer

“Earlier we would give our children a fistful of butter on Jowar bread...now they never saw or tasted it” – Female farmer

Smallholder Farmers from Abbedoddi Village, Ananthapur District

Men and women farmers in rural Andhra Pradesh, India are observing changes in the climate conditions they have come to know through intimate knowledge and experience of working in the region; they report that temperatures are hotter and rainfall patterns are changing. At the same time and possibly related to this, the crops they plant and the food they eat now are not as nutritious as they once were.

During conversations with these farmers about how they are coping with climatic changes, men and women had different stories to tell. Often women take on loans or migrate and work as labourers (in construction) while men, as sole owners of the land, consider themselves to be “farmers” and are less likely to adopt new livelihood strategies.

 © E. L. F. Schipper

These accounts suggest that gender roles – the behaviours, tasks and responsibilities a society defines as “male” or “female” – shape the actions of women and men farmers in response to climate shocks.

To what extent does a farmer’s gender influence his or her response to a climate shock? Is it possible that the impacts of climatic shifts on food security are different for men and women?

Little work has been done to answer these questions, and yet major international efforts are underway to understand and reduce the vulnerability of poor farmers to the risks of long-term climate change.

Interventions to assist the world’s most vulnerable cannot succeed if the key elements of vulnerability, including the differences between men and women, are not understood and addressed. Planning for adaptation to long term change must be founded on men and women farmers’ knowledge and work toward gender equality.

© E. L. F. Schipper

last updated:  Thursday, October 7, 2010