Adapting to Climate Change : A focus on Gender, Indigenous Peoples and Climate Smart Agriculture at COP20

Written by Jessica Morgan

The side event Increasing Resilience to Climate Change through Adoption of CSA Practices with a focus on Gender took place yesterday at COP20. It was joint hosted by CGIAR and Associated ANDES, and supported by the University of Missouri, BMZ, IFPRI and CCAFS.

The side event discussed issues related to gender and resilience vis-a-vis climate-smart agriculture. These issues were raised through looking at existing programmes and initiative results from Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia. IFPRI

There was a great emphasis on Peruvian small farmers in the Andes and the increasing daily struggles they are experiencing. A representative from Parque de la Papa (Potato Park) in Cusco talked about the Sierra communities and the challenges they are facing due to climate change. The main concern is that because of rising average temperatures they have had to grow potatoes at a higher altitude each year. It has risen from 3,400m above sea level to 4,000m. 

Climate change is also spreading crop diseases, increasing women's workloads, causing landslides due to glacier melt and increasing extreme weather events. This means that the communities can no longer count on the traditional weather knowledge.

These issues are only going to proliferate in coming years. The speakers at this event discussed that while we are closer to understanding the challenges faced by indigenous peoples and small farmers, finding solutions to their problems has only just begun. 

When designing climate smart projects care needs to be taken to incorporate indigenous cultures into the design. Initiatives that involve local people and their culture are more successful, more sustainable are more likely engender climate smart practices.

IFAD's Adaptation for Smallholder Farmers Programme (ASAP) aims to do just this. The programme is working in more than thirty developing countries, using climate finance to make rural development programmes more climate-resilient.

For example, in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam, IFAD has launched an initiative specifically targeting ethnic minority and women-headed households. The project implements climate-resilient agricultural systems, and diversification of industries, such as shrimp farming. There is also an early warning system to inform small farmers of any imminent weather changes and saline encroachment up the Mekong river. IFAD ensured that each farmer had the means to access such information easily and within a responsive timeframe. Crucially this programme was set up without altering their cultural way of life, recognising local knowledge. 

IFAD's Smallholder Advantage Report was launched yesterday detailing the projects that IFAD's ASAP has funded. The success of its projects shows how important climate change adaptation is for smallholder farmers and indigenous peoples. This report and this event, confirm that consideration of local contexts and specific needs are vital in project design.