Gender in Agriculture Partnership

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

Update no. 16 - Gender and Climate Change


Welcome to the GAP Update! 


As the world gears up for the UN Climate Change Conference (COP21), opening in Paris on November 30th, many of us are concerned that issues of gender equality might be left at a superficial level. So how are partners working together in the Gender and Agriculture Partnership (GAP) addressing climate change challenges, to ensure that gender features significantly in this global discussion?


This update provides a summary of selected key materials that should also inform discussions at COP21 and future initiatives on gender and climate change. We hope it will inspire you to engage more in this area, and help create new ways for GAP Partners to work and learn together, bringing our Collective Actions to the next level.


Please visit the GAP website for more information, as well as the portal to the Rural Women page of the UNWOMEN site.


The stage is set for COP21


The draft 54-page text that will be negotiated at COP21 includes under ‘Draft Decision’ a welcome reference to gender equality:


‘Also emphasizing the importance of respecting and taking into account human rights, gender equality, the rights of indigenous peoples, intergenerational concerns and the needs of particularly vulnerable groups, including women, children and persons with disabilities, when taking action to address climate change…’


However, this inclusive language is standard practice in UN documents. Beyond the narrative, the challenge is to ensure that gender equality (and ‘women’s empowerment’, a phrase that is still in brackets in the Draft Agreement) is implemented at national, community and household level. This was clearly emphasized by the three Rome-Based Agencies after the publication of FAO's State of Food and Agriculture (SOFA) report 2010-11: "Women in Agriculture: Closing the gender gap for development," which provided solid evidence on the crucial necessity to address gender in development, and through their work with UN Women under the Joint Programme on Accelerating Progress towards the Economic Empowerment of Rural Women.


As Louis Verchot from the Center of International Forestry Research (CIFOR) says, “climate change is a structural problem stemming from the way we have organized our societies, the ways in which we get energy, and what we expect our lives and livelihoods to be like”. This means that solutions proposed to cope with climate change have to go far beyond the technical, political and economic spheres, to embrace also the choice of society we want, as well as considerations of equity and justice.



Why is gender vital for effectively addressing climate change in agriculture?


These equity and justice issues are taken up in a report just released by the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security, on Women and Climate Change: Impact and Agency in Human Rights, Security, and Economic Development. The report provides solid evidence that women are already contributing substantially to climate change adaptation and mitigation around the world. It echoes the calls by its three distinguished Expert Advisers, Ambassador Melanne Verveer, H.E. Mary Robinson and H.E. Tarja Halonen that as the world takes action on climate change, there is a need to ensure that women are enabled to participate in the design and implementation of climate actions.”  


Two blog posts from CGIAR hone in on why gender is important for climate-smart agriculture and why adaptation in agriculture will fail with huge costs to nations and societies if gender differences in perceptions and experience of climate change, and in access to information resources and capacity to adapt, are not addressed. New research based on gender-disaggregated data shows that social norms can limit the adaptation options available to women and can discourage women from adopting particular technologies and practices. Climate change adaptation programmes need to take into account gendered dimensions, given that men and women have different needs, priorities, and preferences for adaptation. 


A recent Policy Brief of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) distils five policy lessons from a seminar in Paris organized by CCAFS, International Social Science Council (ISSC) and Future Earth on practical experiences as to how to support women farmers in contributing innovative solutions to problems caused by climate change.


CARE International and Food Tank, with CCAFS support, have produced Cultivating Equality: Delivering just and sustainable food systems in a changing climate, which reminds us that in a changing climate it is not enough to increase the sustainability and productivity of agriculture and food systems, but they must also be profitable, equitable and resilient to shocks, whether economic, political or climate-induced. The report calls for women’s and girls’ empowerment to bring sustainable institutional change to agricultural systems in the face of climate change.


Moving from talk to action: some useful toolkits on gender and climate change


The recently released Module 18 on Gender in Climate-Smart Agriculture, an addition to the influential Gender in Agriculture Sourcebook published by the World Bank, FAO and IFAD in 2008, is a valuable contribution to guiding action. The Module provides a comprehensive menu of practical tools for integrating gender in the planning, design, implementation, and evaluation of projects and investments in climate-smart agriculture, drawn from tested good practices and innovative approaches.


The Gender and Inclusion Toolbox: Participatory Research in Climate Change and Agriculture issued by CCAFS, CARE and the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) in 2014, introduces a wide range of participatory strategies and tools for research to guide the implementation of climate-smart agriculture, recognizing the key questions needed to be co-defined with local partners working on the ground closely with farmers – both women and men.


The Pacific Islands Gender and Climate Change toolkit is designed to support climate change practitioners in the Pacific islands region to integrate gender into their programmes and projects. The toolkit draws on decades of experience in integrating a gender perspective in sustainable development, natural resources management and disaster preparedness. 



Distilling the facts


A literature review and a synthesis paper published by the Climate & Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) provides a refreshing critique of the literature and research on gender and climate change, identifying some gaps and issues for their research project Gender Equality and Climate Compatible Development.


A number of Working Papers present field study data and analyses on gender and climate change:

Institutions and gender in the adoption of climate-smart agriculture: Evidence from Kenya (CCAFS)

Closing the Relevance Gap: Lessons in Co-Developing Gender Transformative Research Approaches with Development Partners and Communities (CCAFS)

Understanding Gender Dimensions of Agriculture and Climate Change in Smallholder Farming Communities. Climate and Development.

How resilient are farming households, communities, men and women to a changing climate in Africa? Global Environmental Change 34:95-107. 


Often fisheries and livestock are overlooked in the discourse on agriculture. This article by Charlotte Moser provides interesting insights into gender issues in building resilience in village fisheries in Laos.


Learning from success elsewhere


While it would be easy to become mired in talk of the challenges we face in mainstreaming gender in climate change, it is important to highlight some of the many stories of success that are already unfolding, with the help of some pioneering initiatives.


By applying climate information to her farm, knowledge gained through her involvement with a project implemented by CCAFS and the National Agency of Meteorology Senegal (ANACIM), Mariama Keita has become a major agricultural producer and a role model for the women in her village.


Evidence of Impact: Climate-smart agriculture in Africa, a booklet produced jointly by CCAFS and CTA last year, collates several stories—from dairy farmers in Eastern Africa increasing their productivity, to women in Malawi implementing technologies for more fertile soil—which highlight the value of celebrating successes already being made.


Networks addressing gender and climate change


Launched in 2007, the Global Gender and Climate Alliance (GGCA) works to ensure that climate change policies, decision-making, and initiatives at the global, regional and national levels are gender responsive which is critical to solving the climate crisis. Through its website, it shares valuable information about upcoming events (including on COP21) and what its members are doing to address the climate crisis.


The Eldis Climate Change and Development Reporter, based at the Institute of development Studies (IDS), Sussex, also provides up to date information on climate change and agriculture & food security, natural resource management, poverty & vulnerability, governance, health, gender, finance, & low carbon energy.


A question for our Partners in GAP:


Since the Paris Conference is unleashing a dynamic process of reflection and change across countries, regions and multiple stakeholders, HOW do you want to be involved through GAP in developing a community of practice to move beyond talk to concrete collective action and to share learning on addressing climate change in a gender-sensitive way?


If you have relevant materials (articles, blogs, videos etc) that we can also share through GAP, please don’t hesitate to send them to, or register as a Partner or Catalyst on the GAP website to directly post your materials.


We look forward to hearing from you about HOW you'd like to be involved with GAP in ensuring that gender is taken effectively into account in combating climate change!  Please let us know what you and your organizations are doing in this field of gender and climate change, and contribute to the latest discussions on LinkedIn!


GAP Update is a briefing service from the Gender in Agriculture Partnership, a partnership open to all those who work for the economic empowerment of women in agriculture. Our aim is to keep you regularly informed and aware of new initiatives and actions around the world.


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Photo credits: first: C Schubert (CCAFS); second: FISHBIO [Fisheries Research, Monitoring and Conservation]