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Cultivating inclusive change for women in agriculture

© FAO/Katumba Badru

How SCALA is strengthening gender-responsive climate action from local practices to national frameworks

Agrifood systems are a major employer of women globally and constitute a more important source of livelihood for women than for men in many countries, according to FAO’s The Status of Women in Agrifood System Report. The good news is that women’s roles and contribution in the agrifood sector are increasingly reflected in climate plans too – around two-thirds of countries’ nationally determined contributions (NDCs) prioritize gender equality and social inclusion for effective agrifood systems adaptation.

Despite this, in many countries women in agriculture remain significantly marginalized and vulnerable, often confined to part-time and low-skilled jobs that are irregular, informal and labour-intensive. Reversing this trend will require mainstreaming gender and social inclusion in a way that considers women’s roles, wages, higher burdens – such as unpaid care – limited opportunities in education and employment, as well as restricted land rights and ownership. It also calls for sector-specific sex-disaggregated data to help countries plan gender-responsive agriculture services and ensure adaptive changes do not curtail opportunities for women in this sector.

Building concrete action on gender and social inclusion through SCALA

Since 2021, the UNDP-FAO SCALA Programme has been working to improve gender and social inclusion outcomes in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Through their engagement with SCALA, these countries are building adaptive capacity and resilience to climate change in the agriculture and land-use sectors and increasing co-benefits like reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The programme engages directly with local communities, district authorities and national governments to build capacity for tailored climate interventions that meet the needs of women, youth and other marginalized groups.

Here are just three country examples of SCALA’s work supporting gender and social inclusion.

Harnessing the power of traditional practices in Colombia

In Colombia, the Traditional Territorial Practices and Techniques initiative, supported by the SCALA Programme, is documenting and valorizing critical traditional practices across various local communities.

The initiative facilitates Adaptation Dialogues, a knowledge-sharing network that recognizes the value of traditional practices and techniques in strengthening community resilience to climate change impacts. The dialogues have featured a series of gender workshops with women coffee growers, many of whom are facing climate change impacts, such as temperature shifts and changing rainfall patterns. These workshops have helped close a knowledge gap for women in a climate-threatened sector, revealing the importance of recognizing the relationship between gender and climate change.

Lessons learned from the gender workshops are now being featured in a gender blog that aims to guide affected communities in the mainstreaming of a gender approach to climate action.

Supporting district-level gender-responsive adaptation in Uganda

The SCALA Programme is supporting district-level planners in six districts throughout Uganda’s cattle corridor to design gender-responsive adaptation and development plans aimed at scaling up the implementation of transformative climate solutions.

Leveraging SCALA expertise to increase knowledge exchange and communication between local governments and local communities, these six districts are now more equipped to drive resilient and inclusive agriculture system transformation, while raising awareness about the impact of gender dynamics on household resilience and the factors that influence it.

Ultimately, the strategic alignment between local governance and community engagement is helping to lay a strong foundation to attract investment in gender-responsive cassava and dairy production, focusing on building the organizational and financial capacity of women’s groups to market climate-resilient products.

Embedding gender in Cambodia’s national climate plan

In Cambodia, SCALA has supported the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in updating the Climate Change Priorities Action Plan (CCPAP) for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Sectors (2023–2030) through a participatory process that recognizes the key contribution of women.

This has resulted in a CCPAP priority to increase gender-responsive action planning and strengthen women’s resilience to climate change. The Government of Cambodia aims to do this through mainstreaming gender action planning and monitoring, incorporating sex-disaggregated data and gender-specific budgets, enhancing gender-responsive agricultural extension services, and facilitating women’s economic empowerment and entrepreneurship in climate adaptation and action funding.

These examples – from community level in Colombia, district level in Uganda and national level in Cambodia – show how people coming together at all levels of society can bring about gender-transformative and socially inclusive climate action in agrifood systems. This is not only essential for ensuring fairness but also for enhancing the effectiveness of climate responses by unlocking the full potential of all stakeholders and ensuring a sustainable and resilient future for all.


Additional informationCOP28 in the United Arab Emirates saw over 150 countries endorse the COP28 Declaration on Food and Agriculture, which highlights the distinct vulnerabilities of different social groups, and the support needs of women and youth workers. Also at COP 28, 68 Parties endorsed the Gender-Responsive Just Transitions & Climate Action Partnership, a package of commitments on finance, data and equal opportunities that builds on the enhanced UN Climate Change Lima Work Programme and its Gender Action Plan.

Read more: When you think farmer – think female!

International Women’s Day is celebrated each year on 8 March. The theme for 2024 is “Invest in women: Accelerate progress”.