Farmer Field Day in Doggoh , Upper West Region of Ghana (AICCRA)
Farmer Field Day in Doggoh , Upper West Region of Ghana (AICCRA) 

Agency and inclusion: What COP27 should deliver for women farmers in Africa

Supporting women in African agriculture in the face of climate change should be a key priority for the upcoming COP27 climate change conference.

Climate change has different effects on women and men as a result of gender roles and differences in rights and responsibilities, decision making, and incomes, among others, exacerbating pre-existing inequalities, vulnerabilities, and poverty. As a result, women are often less able to adapt to climate change than men.

However, women play a key role in climate change sectors such as agriculture. Their contribution in adaptation and mitigation efforts are therefore crucial.

As we countdown to COP27, discussions about agriculture and climate change should include priorities of gender and social inclusion, specifically focusing on women smallholder farmers in Africa. AICCRA’s Gender and Social Inclusion (GSI) team works to identify and customize packages of climate-smart agriculture (CSA) technologies and practices that are ‘gender-smart’ and help to promote greater inclusion of women and other marginalised social groups.

The AICCRA Gender and Social Inclusion Workshops of June 2021 brought together government institutions, local banks, microfinance institutions, development agencies and farmers organisations to identify the most promising mechanisms to accelerate the adoption of climate information services and climate-smart agriculture by women and young people engaged in smallholder farming.

Africa’s existing commitments for gender equality

To be successful, climate change adaptation needs to integrate an understanding of gender equality and to take action on it. African nations have committed to this at global, regional and national levels.

At the global level, all 54 African countries have signed the Paris Agreement and agreed to gender-equitable implementation of the agreement, including assessment of gender differences, the establishment of baseline data, gender analysis of existing policies and strategies, and gender responsive budgeting within climate change policies, action plans, strategies and frameworks. African countries are also committed to implementing the Gender Action Plan (GAP).

At the regional level, gender equality is both a human right and a precondition and indicator of sustainable people-centred development as enshrined in Article 4 (l) of the Constitutive Act of the African Union. African Heads of States and Governments have agreed to develop a CAHOSCC Women and Gender Programme on Climate Change (CWGPCC) to engage women and gender in climate change-related actions.  

Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) of 48 countries in Africa make references to gender and women, and 29 African NDCs include references to youth. Commitments include mainstreaming gender in national climate action, consultations with and empowerment of youth around national priorities, and a strong emphasis on women’s role in agricultural adaptation.

Policy actions for gender equality

Climate change policy should integrate gender, not by adding women to pre-determined agreements and frameworks, but rather by grounding policy in an understanding of gender and social inequalities and opportunities.

Key focus areas for climate policy and action that integrates gender and social justice are:

  • Gender and social inclusion analysis at national and local levels, to identify the challenges and opportunities for gender- and socially-responsive policy and action in climate adaptation, agriculture, food security and nutrition, natural resource and environmental management.
  • Access to productive resources and information: Evidence from Burkina Faso, Kenya, Nigeria and Zambia show that women are much less likely to use purchased inputs such as fertilizers and improved seeds or to make use of mechanical tools and equipment. The gender gap in access to livestock-based inputs has been noted in livestock farming systems.
  • Access to climate finance for climate-smart agriculture innovations and participation in food value chains is crucial for women as well as men.
  • Use of labour-reducing and digital technologies, such as water harvesting technologies (irrigation, livestock and household use) are needed to reduce women’s workloads, enable efficient and productive crop and livestock management, and have access to climate and weather information.
  • Access to information on weather, climate and food security, including early warning systems.

These are just some examples of what research shows about women’s inequality and vulnerability. Global climate policy needs to promote women’s access to these kinds of resources so they have the tools to adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change.

It is imperative that both women and men contribute to decision making, policy, implementation, and monitoring to increase the effectiveness of climate action. This requires more than the presence of women in climate institutions and processes. Constraints to women’s real inclusion and voice include economic dependency and lack of resources, illiteracy and limited access to education, lack of information, and time poverty.

Promoting women’s voice in policy, planning and implementation needs to be based in funding and capacity development. The role of grassroots and women organisations to empower local civil society should be prioritized.

How AICCRA is working on Gender and Social Inclusion

In AICCRA’s six focus countries the GSI team works with national public sector institutions, the private sector, NGOs, farmer groups, cooperatives, unions, women and youth organizations together with regional agricultural research networks to find ‘best-bet’ CSA packages and target them to women and youth through assessment of their gender and inclusivity.

Through dialogues with policymakers, implementation managers and field workers, the team assesses how ‘gender-smart’ such ‘climate-smart’ agricultural innovations are, helping to drive new and better targeted investments, finding new ways to deliver these innovations on a scale needed to meet the climate and food security challenges faced in Africa.

Looking ahead to COP27

At COP27 countries will report on: gender budgeting, including on the integration of gender- responsive budgeting into national budgets; steps taken to implement the Lima Work Program on Gender (OWPG); and map progress in the priority areas of the Gender Action Plan (GAP) in their national reporting.

We hope that COP27 will bring actions on social inclusion and supporting women’s agency in all climate change sectors, including women’s role in agricultural adaptation. COP27 should also deliver concrete actions for women farmers and all women on NDC implementation and climate finance.