Gender responsive adaptation in smallholder agriculture: Challenges and opportunities

UNFCCC COP23, Bonn, 8 November

Here in Bonn, IFAD and the CGIAR Research Programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) held the first session of the Agriculture Advantage Series – The Gender Advantage.

The event brought together representatives from CCAFS, IFAD, the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), the Women Environmental Programme (WEP) and CARE.

IFAD’s Ilaria Firmian gave the first presentation of the day, stating that the gender advantage in agriculture is already known. FAO research shows that if women were given access to the same resources as men, agricultural output in developing countries could increase by up to 4 per cent and the number of hungry people could be reduced by 100-150 million.

She illustrated how IFAD's Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP), the world’s largest climate change adaptation programme focused on smallholder farmers, addresses gender equality and women’s empowerment issues at project design stage.

Firmian highlighted the three main objectives of IFAD’s gender policy - economic empowerment, decision-making and representation, and equitable workload balance. “Equitable access to information channels and adaptation knowledge is critical," said Firmian. "When women are left out of early warning systems, their potential to contribute to household and community responses is not fulfilled and it results in their greater vulnerability to extreme weather events.”

A key focus of the alliance between IFAD, CCAFS and CARE has been to generate lessons on integrating gender in adaptation projects with smallholder farmers.

“We need to transform the gender disadvantage,” said CARE's Tonya Rawe. “There is an unfair labour burden on women. They work farms, are responsible for food security and have to do domestic chores. We cannot add more work to this, but must also make sure that this existing workload doesn’t hinder women’s involvement.”

Sophia Huyer spoke of the ASAP projects PRELNOR in Uganda and PAPAM/ASAP in Mali, and their victories and challenges when it came to gender empowerment and equality.

Priscilla Achakpa, the executive-director of the Women Environmental Programme (WEP) and one of the negotiators here at COP23 also gave a presentation on the role that the African Working Group on Gender and Climate Change (AWGGCC) plays in Africa’s engagement in the regional and global gender and climate change processes at the UNFCCC.

She spoke of the varying challenges Africa is facing when it comes to women’s empowerment, from religious and cultural differences, to diluted and fractured messages coming from different countries.

“We now come with the message from Africa, united by our group experience," said Achakpa. "We need to focus on the institutionalisation of gender – not solely on outcomes.”

“We need to safeguard women’s rights while staying open to opportunities,” Bimbika Sijapati Basnett from CIFOR said in her closing remarks. “We cannot operate in silos, we must also include men and boys in the process or risk its failure.”