When you think farmer – think female!

FAO and UNDP are empowering women for a sustainable future

In many parts of the world, women carry out a majority of the agricultural and household work. Yet, they do not have the same access to resources or power in decision-making as men.  To bridge the gender gap, FAO and UNDP work with countries to empower women and achieve gender equality in the agriculture sector for a more sustainable future that will benefit all.

Women are key to food production. In developing countries, women comprise 45 percent of the agricultural labour force, with that figure rising to 60 percent in parts of Africa and Asia. They therefore play a fundamental role in achieving Sustainable Development Goal 2 on Zero Hunger. However, female farmers have limited access to land, markets and education compared to men, and are not equally involved in decision-making. Studies show that if women had the same access to resources as men, food production would rise by almost 30 percent, potentially resulting in 150 million fewer hungry people in the world.

Women bear the brunt of climate change impacts

Considering the differences in roles and access to resources between men and women, climate change impacts on agriculture affect them in different ways.

In Viet Nam, for example, the majority of agricultural workers are women, as many men migrate to cities to find alternative jobs with more profitable incomes. It is thus mainly the women who experience the direct impacts of climate change in their daily lives. For instance, when sea level rise causes salt water to intrude and destroy whole fields of rice; food security and livelihoods are put at risk. Desperation grows and as described by a Vietnamese farmer in a similar situation: all she can do is pray. This is just one example of how climate change directly affects smallholder farmers, and much has been done to improve the situation.

Viet Nam is in fact one of 11 countries where FAO and UNDP worked in close collaboration with the government and other relevant stakeholders to tackle climate change, concentrating on issues related to gender, through the Integrating Agriculture in National Adaptation Plans (NAP-Ag) programme, funded by the German Ministry of Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) through its International Climate Initiative (IKI).

New knowledge improves gender mainstreaming

For the past six years (2015-2020), the NAP-Ag programme supported countries to address challenges and priorities of both women and men in adaptation planning in agriculture, with a major part of its activities focused on monitoring sex disaggregated data and gender mainstreaming. This was done by conducting climate risk and vulnerability assessments and developing multi-criteria approaches to screen adaptation options focused on gender and vulnerable populations. The programme was not only able to promote women’s participation in activities related to agriculture and climate change planning, but also to integrate gender-sensitive adaptation options in countries’ climate change strategies and plans.

In addition, a number of knowledge products developed within the programme focus on gender concerns and present solutions can serve as useful tools for countries and organizations beyond the programme itself.

For eg, The Toolkit for value chain analysis and market development integrating climate resilience and gender responsiveness (2020) aims to support countries in selecting and analyzing value chains that are both climate-resilient and reduce gender inequalities. Another useful resource is Gender in adaptation planning for the agriculture sectors: Guide for Trainers (2019), which provide a complete set of materials to use in training sessions on this topic. There is a wealth of knowledge available on the programme website focused on mainstreaming gender in agriculture and climate change planning, such as a briefing note, a number of case studies, webinars and videos.

Pandemic has increased the gender gap

Evidence shows that men and women are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in different ways, as they are with climate change. Despite the great efforts and success in recent years, new data from UN women reveal that existing social biases and gender-based discrimination have become worse since the COVID-19 outbreak a year ago. Women’s workload at home has multiplied and while incomes have decreased for both men and women, women suffer more serious economic disadvantages since they are often involved in informal employment. According to a UN report in Asia and the Pacific, an estimated 66 percent of women and 57 percent of men noted decreases in income from farming and fishing, which may translate into food shortages in poorer households. This financial stress, together with increased workload at home, is taking a toll on women’s mental and emotional health. Evidence also shows that rural women and girls are at an increased risk of gender-based violence driven by tensions in the household related to isolation, food and financial insecurity, and to the closure of schools.

For that reason, it is more important than ever to make sure that governments take gender aspects into consideration both in their COVID-19 response and climate strategies.  To better tackle the climate challenge and pandemic impacts, women in developing countries must have equal access to productive resources and opportunities as men. Organizations must become more inclusive and support the participation of all groups in decision-making processes.

Gender mainstreaming at the heart of a new climate programme

In response to this need, and based on the NAP-Ag experience, gender mainstreaming is a cross-cutting theme of the Scaling up Climate Ambition on Land Use and Agriculture through Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) and National Adaptation Plans (NAP) (SCALA) programme, also co-led by FAO and UNDP with funding from IKI.  The programme’s approach is closely linked to the UNDP Gender Equality Strategy 2018-2021 and the new FAO Policy on Gender Equality 2020-2030, recognizing that gender equality and the empowerment of rural women are essential to achieve its mandate of a world free from hunger, malnutrition and poverty.

Embedded in all 12 SCALA partner countries, gender mainstreaming will be promoted and implemented through, inter alia, gender analysis and gender responsive consultative approaches. The programme also aims to integrate gender-responsive priorities into plans and budgets and to increase women’s participation in decision-making around climate in agriculture. Finally, the programme supports the equitable allocation of resources and the design of projects for the implementation of gender-responsive actions.

Gender equality is included in the Paris Agreement and considered key for social transformation and climate action. As the majority of countries are currently enhancing their climate commitments through their NDCs under the Paris Agreement, implementation will be key. SCALA will assist its partner countries over the next 4 years to translate their NDCs and their NAPs into actionable transformative climate solutions.

Gender equality is a catalyst for faster, bolder and inclusive NDCs, and offers a unique opportunity for promoting gender responsive measures at scale. SCALA will consider how a country’s climate policies can help achieve or promote gender-related objectives and whether climate policies can take into account the gender differentiated impacts that climate changes poses to avoid further increasing the gender gaps.

Last Updated: 8 Mar 2021