Gender & climate change adaptation: empowering women in agriculture and forestry
In every region of the world, women are engaged in sectors that are directly affected by climate change. In agriculture, forestry, and other livelihood activities, these women are already feeling the impact of climate change; and generally experience greater vulnerability and risk than men. This brief overview regarding the intersection of gender and climate change describes why it is so important that gender is mainstreamed into climate adaptation plans and programmes, as well as areas which represent particular problems that must be addressed.
The report notes that a person’s gender alone is not enough to determine their vulnerability to climate change; there are a multitude of factors (age, wealth, race, etc.) which combine in different ways and in different circumstances. While it is, therefore, best to avoid generalisations regarding gender and climate change, there are nevertheless differing factors that can affect the relative decision-making power afforded to men and women. Nuanced evaluations are therefore required to shed light on the disadvantages women face. Some areas of principal concerns are:
Access to education, information, and training: despite representing more than half of all farmers, women have less access to land than men; they are also seriously hindered by inadequate opportunities in education, technology, technical assistance, and financial services.
Economic opportunities and independence: in some countries, social and cultural norms severely restrict women, making them dependent on male family members. Although women often bear greater burdens brought on by climate change, they are less able to influence decisions regarding adaptation.
Decision-making structures and institutions: overall, women have less decision-making power – both at home and within their communities. This bias is typically reflected within institutions and power structures. Due to this, there are greater risks that climate adaptation policies will overlook women’s well-being and rights, as well as their wisdom to shape and enact action plans.
The authors suggest a number of reasons why women must be included in adaptation efforts. Women possess invaluable skill-sets and knowledge bases that can benefit adaptation efforts around the world. Also, women are among those most exposed to, and best-placed to help deal with, key areas that face severe climate-related impacts; agricultural production, household food security and water, and utilising forest resources are three examples discussed in this publication.
Finally, the authors describe the work of the Rainforest Alliance in supporting women’s empowerment. A number of case studies are briefly outlined, ranging from advancing climate-smart practices through the provision of education and training to meet the requirements of Rainforest Alliance certification, to working with farmers to improve their production in the Napo region of Ecuador, and promoting sustainable forestry and REDD+. The conclusion emphasises the importance of educating the next generation on the climate change impacts and responses.