IFAD’s new projects in East and Southern Africa to be gender responsive

This article first appeared in UN Kenya Newsletter, December 2013

Workshop participates playing 'the River Climate Game’ 
©IFAD, 2013
IFAD’s regional Knowledge Management and Capacity Building Forum has embarked on an innovative initiative of bringing the thematic areas of gender, land tenure and climate change together in IFAD projects towards further contributing to lifting poor rural farmers out of poverty. This is under the Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP), which is aimed at the integration of climate adaptation related aspects in both design and implementation of IFAD supported projects in the East and Southern Africa region.

To kick-start this initiative, the first ever regional workshop on linking the three thematic areas was held among IFAD staff and partners such as ICRAF, FAO, WFP, UNHabitat, UNEP and CGIAR, in October 2013 in Nairobi. Climate change experts shared prevailing facts, with a specific focus on the East and Southern Africa (ESA) region. According to a study by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), in low-income countries, climate change could increase the number of malnourished children by 9.8 per cent by 2050.

Climate change impacts, induced by a general rise in temperatures, include an increased incidence of droughts and floods, land degradation, water scarcity and biodiversity loss. In East and Southern Africa, the effects of climate change will be compounded by the region’s high poverty levels, weak infrastructure, poor natural resources management and dependence on rainfed agriculture.

A key highlight of the workshop was the participation by all in the “River Climate Game” developed by the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre. In an informal way, participants were able to unpack the complexities and uncertainties of climate change, especially when linked to land and gender issues. As the IFAD regional director Perin Saint-Ange said: “We have to reshape our agendas to be able to address the various cross-cutting issues of land, climate change and gender.”

It is important to mind the gender gap in dealing with climate change and land related issues in projects, and to recognize that men and women farmers have different abilities to adapt to and mitigate climate change. “Climate change adaptation strategies for women and men may be different due to the gender differentiated access to resources; unequal voice in decision making as well as gender-based division of labour. The workshop took these issues into consideration to ensure that the design of new ASAP projects in ESA will be gender-responsive. It is also important to make agriculture attractive to the youth given their large numbers and the potential they hold for the future,” said Elizabeth Nyambura Ssendiwala, the Gender & Youth Coordinator from IFAD Nairobi.

Additionally, land tenure security, especially women’s land rights, decentralized land administration, and equitable access to irrigation and watershed management will also have to be integrated in projects and programmes for sustainable development.