The agricultural sector employs 60 percent of women in Oceania, Southern Asia, and Africa south of the Sahara and 80 percent of women in Least Developed Countries. Despite women’s large role in agriculture, however, there remains a global gender gap in access to resources and agricultural productivity. As a result of this gender gap, male and female farmers in developing countries have different abilities to adapt to climate change, climate variability, and weather-related shocks.

Gender, Technology and Development recently released a special issue titled “Gender, Climate Change and Agriculture,” which brings together five articles investigating the relationship between gender disparities, agriculture, and climate change.

The first paper investigates productivity constraints among women smallholders in Malawi and assesses the potential for the adoption of climate-smart practices and technologies. The paper finds that women smallholders in the two areas studied by the paper have extremely limited access to agricultural productivity-enhancing inputs and resources such as animal power, irrigation, and credit. For instance, only 16 percent of women covered in the study stated that they had access to draught animals. Moreover, the study highlights that even if women smallholders are motivated to adopt climate-smart agriculture practices, they may not have the decision-making power to embrace such practices. The paper argues that there are a range of knowledge, technology, energy, and capacity building gaps that must be bridged before adaptation practices can be considered by women farmers and suggests that participatory technology development and adaptation approaches that consider gender roles are needed to increase the access and use of climate smart agriculture by women smallholder farmers.

The second paper also highlights the need for further research to understand the impact of technology on gender relations in agriculture. The article specifically analyses the promotion of cooking stoves and water reservoirs for women smallholders to adapt to climate change in Nicaragua. These technologies are aimed at improving the livelihoods of rural men and women while reducing the climate-related risks that they face; however the paper questions whether these technologies are indeed beneficial and whether they ‘reproduce’ gender injustices. Based on a series of interviews, the paper argues that the introduction of these gender-sensitive climate change adaptation technologies do reproduce prevailing gender roles and gender ‘injustices.’ The paper notes that if projects do not value local knowledge and gender contexts, they may lead to technology-centric approaches that are not appropriate in the context of the local culture or environment and that may exacerbate gender inequalities. In conclusion, the paper calls for a rethinking of the role that these technologies have in challenging existing gender inequalities.

The role of communities and organizations and their impact on strengthening the adaptive capacity and food security of smallholders is assessed in the third paper. The study is based on community-level participatory and organizational-level interviews from 15 sites across West Africa, East Africa, and South Asia. The study finds that in all regions, women tend to value local organizations more highly than men and that women’s perception of food security is broader than men’s, going beyond production and including other aspects such as health. However, most of the local organizations with food security as a stated objective focus on production; the study argues that this focus is likely to marginalize women. The paper recommends that given the effects that climate change is predicted to have on food security, development organizations should consider the differing priorities of men and women and use a gendered perspective when building adaptive capacity to respond to climate change and to improve food security.

The fourth paper investigates whether climate information services received through mobile phones can support gender-inclusive agriculture by supporting productivity improvements for both men and women. The paper focuses on the Indian states of Haryana and Bihar, and is based on a dataset that includes 1,100 farmers. The study finds that climate information services distributed through the mobile phone can reduce knowledge gaps that exist between large and small farmers and between women and men. More specifically, around 85 percent of male and 83 percent of female farmers made changes in their agricultural practices based on these information services. The paper concludes that providing low-cost information through mobile phones can address resource constraints for women farmers, especially considering that the costs of attaining information from other sources is generally high for women, and can potentially increase incomes through improved production.

The last paper investigates gendered aspects of and willingness to pay for agricultural micro-insurance products in Bangladesh. The study highlights that most index-based insurance products have been developed without paying explicit attention to gender differences. In contrast to assumptions that women tend to be more risk-averse than men, the study found that women and men showed interest in and purchased agricultural insurance at high and roughly equal rates. However, the study also found that women farmers generally had fewer years of education and lower financial literacy than their male counterparts, as well as overall less experience dealing with agricultural risks. This may place women at a disadvantage when making insurance purchase decisions.

Several common themes emerge across the different gender aspects of agricultural production investigated in this issue. Most importantly, addressing gender inequality in agriculture involves more than just overcoming unequal access to resources. The papers also highlight that technology alone is not sufficient to support agricultural improvements; rather, such improvements need to be understood in the context of local knowledge, culture, gender relations, capacities, and ecosystems to prevent technology from reinforcing existing gender and power imbalances. A key common recommendation of the papers is that technologies and initiatives need to be developed and implemented in a framework that considers gender relations and that focuses on reinforcing women’s resources and decision-making capacities.

Read more about gender, climate change and agriculture in Malawi

Read more about gender, climate change, and agriculture in India

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