Smallholder farmers are both men and women – and increasingly, in many regions they are predominantly women. This role is increasing as a result of migration out of rural areas by men and young people in search of employment. Despite this, the contribution of women smallholder farmers often goes unrecognized; their productive activities such as vegetable gardening tend to be considered part of their household and family responsibilities, and not integrated into the paid economy. They also tend to have less access to decision-making processes in the household and community, further weakening their visibility.
A special issue of the journal Gender, Technology and Development in July 2016 on Gender, Climate Change and Agriculture explored these gender-based disparities in resource access as they lead to lower production levels and decreased ability to adapt to climate change. For example, until basic gender constraints limiting access to labour-saving and affordable energy technologies are resolved, women smallholder farmers in Malawi will not be in a position to adopt climate change adaptation techniques. Gender roles and opportunities are affected and changed by technology, climate change and employment trends, so that assumptions about who does what in a household or a community also needs to be constantly re-examined.
Women can be agents of innovation and positive change, and there are promising models for supporting this capacity in environmental management and agriculture. Innovative low-cost communication services such as mobile phone-based short messaging services and voice-enabled call centers, can reach more women farmers and enable them to participate more actively in farming decisions. Other methods of reaching women include service organizations which provide a broad range of services and information including nutrition and health as well as agricultural production.
Implementing the gender dimensions of the Paris Agreement involves a wide range of action and capacity development, including promoting gender balance in climate policy but also targeting the important role women play in climate action every day across the globe.
Photo credit: Manon Koningsteen-CIAT