Gender in Agriculture Partnership

Transforming agriculture to empower women and deliver food, nutrition and income security

How can CSA practices impact gendered-labour roles?

Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) is defined as an approach that helps farmers adapt to climate change, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase productivity to increase food security. In order to achieve these three goals of CSA, new technologies and practices must be implemented on farms; when new practices are implemented, they can have positive or negative social impacts that may not be considered when the technology or practice is being developed. In developing countries, women and men often perform different activities in agricultural production. For example, in the rice sector of some Latin American countries, women are often in charge of activities like transplanting and manual weed control, while men contribute to nearly all the other rice production activities. Furthermore, women are often responsible for domestic chores and childcare, carrying out more work-hours per day and having less time for income-earning or leisure activities, compared with men.

Labor-saving technologies: “tools and equipment which reduce drudgery and/or improve efficiency of performing various farming or household activities (Bishop-Sambrook 2003)”

An example of a CSA labor-saving technology is Flexi-biogas in Kenya, Rwanda and India. It provides cooking gas in small holders of livestock, and at the same time saves 2-3 hours of women’s time in cooking. They dedicate that time to income generation or leisure activities. Also, women were able to spend more time with their family and have a higher social status within the household. World Bank, FAO, IFAD, 2015

The implementation of CSA practices can reduce or increase the time or energy that a specific activity requires, affecting men and women differently depending on the specific farm activities they do. Alternate Wetting and Drying (AWD) is a water saving technique that reduces methane gas emissions through better water management in rice production. Since rice contributes about 10 percent of the gas emissions in agriculture, this practice has the potential to help reduce GHG while helping farmers adapt to decreases in water availability and also maintaining or even increasing productivity levels.  However, the benefits or costs of using this new technology are gendered.
AWD can affect the amount of time men and women spend on controlling weeds and irrigation. According to preliminary results of a 2016 baseline survey with 609 household in five sites, women contributed as hired labour in manual weed control: 21 percent of the households that manually control weeds (342 cases), hired women for this activity. As the study is still in process, it is not yet clear if AWD is likely to increase or decrease time spent weeding. If weeding time is increased as a result of AWD, then there will be a higher demand for wage labour, which could have a positive impact in terms of increasing women’s incomes. But if the weeding time needed is reduced, the impact could be negative by causing a reduction in rural women’s income. This is particularly important given that that there are not many alternative wage labour options for women living in this region (this is not true for men who have other wage earning opportunities).
Further analysis is needed to conclude if AWD has a positive or negative impact on poor rural women in Colombia. Nevertheless, this case illustrates the importance of being aware of social trade-offs that the introduction of a new CSA technology can have; and to consider gender equitable strategies to mitigate climate change in the context of agriculture in developing countries. 


Authored by:

María Alejandra Garcia, International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)

Jennifer Twyman, post- doctoral social scientist, the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security


Photo credit : Felix Ospina-Fedearroz

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