Guided by the World Bank's Environmental and Social Framework, AICCRA shows how—by enabling women and persons with disabilities to lead farmer demonstrations—the uptake of climate-smart agriculture can be scaled in Kenyan communities.
Women and other minority groups play vital roles in African agriculture. Yet a complex set of cultural, social, and political factors constrain their access to climate-smart agricultural technologies, that could be transformative for their ability to adapt to climate change.
There is an urgent need to focus on the productivity and the resilience of women and other underserved people in agriculture value chains, especially when faced with impact of climate change.
It is instrumental in realizing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in the next seven years, particularly the targets of zero hunger (SDG 2), gender equality (SDG 5) and climate action (SDG 13).
Accelerating Impacts of CGIAR Climate Research for Africa (AICCRA) is helping to increase access to climate-smart agriculture (CSA) technologies and practices for women and other minority groups in its six focus countries across Africa - Senegal, Mali, Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya and Zambia.
AICCRA is supported by The World Bank, and its Environmental and Social Framework (ESF) underpins AICCRA's work. The ESF is also helping to make access to these CSA technologies more inclusive.
The ESF focuses on promoting green, resilient, and inclusive development by strengthening protections for the environment and people, as well as fostering important progress on inclusion.
For the Bank, inclusion means empowering all people to participate in, and benefit from the development process and its outcomes.
In Kenya, household farming activities in 'Arid and Semi-Arid' (ASAL) regions are mostly led by women, who—despite being on the frontline of the climate challenge—are often at risk of being excluded from agricultural technology transfers.
Guided by ESF standard on the assessment and management of environmental and social risk, the AICCRA team in Kenya assessed and prioritized the inclusion of farmers who may be at risk of exclusion in the transfer of CSA technologies.
They were identified through a participatory stakeholder engagement process, where discussions were held with farmers in project communities during site-specific environmental and social screening.
These discussions considered persons at risks of exclusion, and measures to foster their participation in the learning sessions on CSA technologies being scaled by AICCRA.
This led to the identification of women and persons with disabilities (PWDs).
Moreover, the approach fostered by the ESF helped to redesign the project's implementation and development, with key action points on inclusion:
- Consider more women and (where feasible) persons with disabilities as lead farmers on CSA demonstration sites.
- Support more women to facilitate meetings and deliver CSA extension services to other women.
- Put in place strict measures on sexual harassment, making meetings and learning spaces more comfortable, appropriate, and safe for women.
- Select demonstration plots that are easily accessible to women and PWDs, with the provision of appropriate transportation where necessary.
- Organize meetings and farmer field days at times, venues, and languages convenient to women and PWDs in focus communities.
The emphasis on these measures and the flexibility of the project to accommodate them has inspired progress in locally-led, bottom-up learning to scale CSA.
The International Crop Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) coordinate some of the AICCRA supported CSA demonstration sites in Makueni, Kitui, and Taita Taveta counties in Kenya, where two of the three field officers nominated are women.
The involvement of women at this leadership level has been useful in delivering on the ESF action points.
In addition, five of the nine local Agricultural Extension Officers (AEOs)—employed by the Kenyan government and engaged by the project to transfer and interact with the famers on the CSA technologies—are women.
The government initially nominated three, but AICCRA requested an additional two women officers to strengthen the project’s engagements with female farmers.
According to one of the female AEOs, their presence at the frontline stimulates more openness among female farmers.
“Women are more open to listening to women, willing to share their problems with fellow women without any sense of shame…it also eliminates some unusual suspicions that their husbands may sometimes harbor about interactions between their wives and male extension officers”
Veronica Mulaki, Kalawa Ward AEO
To help sustain these gains, and increase the availability of female AEOs, AICCRA partnered with Chuka, Murang’a, and Taita Taveta Universities in Kenya to train more female students in CSA.
Such is AICCRA's determination to follow this inclusive approach, 17 of 30 lead farmers selected to host and coordinate AICCRA CSA demonstration farms at the community level were women, with two lead famers being persons with disabilities.
It should be noted that initially, seven female lead farmers had been selected to host the demonstration farms. But Environmental and Social (E&S) specialists in the AICCRA Kenya team advocated for the inclusion of an additional ten women lead farmers.
“The most unique aspects of the CSA demonstrations in Kenya are the deliberate targeting of women lead farmers and the inclusion of PWDs in demonstration activities for the very first time.”
Faith Salu, ICRISAT Science Officer
The decision to have women lead farmers demonstrate CSA technologies is creating visibility for women’s farming activities.
It is providing a space for women to make important decisions on farming inputs and management - for example, allowing them to select climate resilient seed systems that can improve household food security and livelihoods.
After the successful demonstration and validation of high yield and climate resilient Nyota Beans with farmers, over 200 female farmers in Makueni and Kitui Counties of Kenya have requested the Alliance to resupply them with more Nyota beans for planting in the March to May 2023 planting season.
The women appreciate the viability of the beans in their arid and semi-arid climatic regions. They also value the high-iron content in the beans, useful for brain development in children and reproductive health in adult men and women.
“As women, we are the breadwinners of our households, so we pay keen interest to our household food security, nutritional needs, and productivity of our farms…we should always be given the priority to be the first to learn from technologies that improve smallholder farming as you have done through this AICCRA project”.
Phoebe Mwangagi, a Lead Farmer on AICCRA CSA demonstration farm, Makueni County
Women and PWD lead farmers have attracted interest and participation of other female and PWDs farmers in learning sessions. So far, 600 women farmers and 15 PWDs have visited the AICCRA demonstration sites in Makueni, Kitui and Taita Taveta to learn about climate-smart agriculture.
This represents about 70 percent of all the farmers that have visited the sites for learning, an encouraging trend that is strengthening the informal networks of women farmers sharing knowledge without discouraging the involvement of men in their communities.
These outcomes show how extension services should be useful, not only for the appropriate transfer of technology, but also deepening inclusion and social equity more broadly.
Working through women lead farmers does not diminish men’s involvement, rather it simply increases participation of women in the communities where AICCRA works.
As the world’s largest research partnership for food security and agriculture, it’s crucial that CGIAR and its partners prioritize women, PWDs, and other minority groups in demonstrations of agricultural technologies. The results in Kenya speak for themselves.
Adams Kwaw, AICCRA Senior Environmental and Social Safeguards Specialist, Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT
Images by Owen Kimani