What are the key issues in gender-sensitive climate-smart agriculture?

Climate-smart agriculture (CSA), an approach introduced by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) in 2010 to the global agriculture and climate change community, promises to address agricultural productivity, mitigation and adaptation dilemmas and goals faced by men, women, and the youth at the very basic level.

These three social groups, while constituting one body of the human race, has time and again, been presented as arguably unequal and different, having different needs, aspirations, and opportunities afforded to them.  Climate change has now offered humanity a potential path, which is testing the strength, mental powers, and resoluteness of these social groups. The agriculture sector, known to provide a livelihood to many in Africa is equally under pressure – nature, environmental, and human-made – and so, are women,  men and now youth.

According to FAO, gender refers “not to male and female, but masculine and feminine, that is, to qualities or characteristics that society ascribes to each sex.” FAO goes to say that “people are born female or male, but learn to be women and men.” Gender is a social construct, a group thing. Gender bias is already a thorn in many community and development initiatives.

The Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) categorizes gender issues as part of the “non-physical or software barriers” when they speak of barriers to adoption and non-adoption of CSA in Africa.

But here is the good news. Gender can learn, unlearned, and relearned.

Research and development work done on gender and agriculture in Africa has lots of potential to ease the social, cultural and economic burdens faced by women farmers.

A study by FAO on the role of women in agriculture noted that “women comprise about 43 percent of the agricultural labor force globally and in developing countries.” Women were also estimated to produce at least 60 percent of the food grown in Africa. To be able to say we have now what can be called “gender-sensitive CSA” means we would have worked to eliminate bias and opportunity gaps between the sexes in the theory and practice of agriculture, climate, and gender.

Another study aimed at seeking out ideas and opinions concerning mainstreaming gender equality in agricultural research for development (ARD) conducted by the FARA found that “the informal structural set-up of African smallholder agriculture prevented it from actually positive change given the fact that ARD did not adequately plan it in its design and execution.” Also, according to the study, African smallholder agriculture is intimately linked to rural ways of life, whereas ARD perceives agriculture as an impersonal activity.

During the period 2-4 November 2016, the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) working in partnership with other organizations hosted in Nairobi, Kenya, a Programme Design Workshop on Gender-Sensitive Climate-Smart Agriculture in Eastern and Southern Africa. The meeting, attended by about 25 participants, and led by Oluyede Ajayi, Ph.D., Senior Programmes Coordinator at CTA, had some objectives, principal among them,

  • What are the current research and knowledge gaps available on CSA in Eastern Africa?
  • In what ways can partnerships be initiated with organizations working on agriculture, nutrition, and climate change in Eastern Africa?
  • How do we strengthen the work of CTA and its partners in gender-sensitive CSA?

As Oluyede Ajayi, Ph.D. noted, “partnerships is CTA’s way of working in various programs”. In that regard, CTA was actively seeking out new partners to help with its work in Africa, in particular, the six regions where it has its flagships programs.

Olu also went on to state that the Design Workshop was guided by one big question, “What is the concrete roadmap to help women farmers who are out there, having to cope with climate change as they pursue their livelihood on a daily basis?”

Here are some three key issues in gender-sensitive climate-smart agriculture:

  1. “Climate-smart” or “best-practices” in the agricultural sector and gender needs champions who work at different levels and in local communities. This is important in that CSA as an approach has its technological components which are entirely different from social, human, and environmental features. Champions, who can be individuals, institutions, or groups of people, would serve to act as a point of reference when it comes to human-factors in getting the best out of CSA. The champions would also take stock of other emerging best practices in gender and agriculture. Some of the remarkable initiatives on CSA with a potential global reach includes the following: An African Development Bank study on CSA in an African context, Brussels Rural Development Briefings, Centre for Coordination of Agricultural Research and Development for Southern Africa meeting on CSA, 2015 CSA Global Conference in France, Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network CSA Programme, and the Forum for Agricultural Research’s State of Knowledge and Case Studies on CSA.
  1. Seek clarity on what are the perceived problems, where they are, and how to address them, when using a gender lens in the agricultural community and development issues. Here, it is indispensable to be aware of the current state of knowledge and research gaps in gender and CSA in the regions where partners work. Participants in the Programme Design Workshop shared that Kenya had some initiatives and programs on CSA such as the Climate Change Act, which was guiding the efforts in the country. In a globalized world, clarity on problems also means that taking into consideration social and cultural approaches to problem solving. Problems are defined differently across cultures: some demanding that a set of targeted interventions can solve the problems once and for all while some cultures, would say that problems are part of a process towards a desired end. They can never be fully solved.
  1. Gender considerations should allow for continuous research and learnings through the use of multi-disciplinary approaches that enable tackling agriculture, nutrition, and climate change issues, all at once. This means that timely and accurate data on gender should be available for use by researchers, policy makers, and practitioners. Intelligent use of this data will also assist in capacity building, development programs and monitoring and evaluation by partners working with community members to build their asset base in various regions. Taking gender considerations on board makes it possible to conduct in-depth analysis to understand gender norms, equity, and equality issues, and other concerns on societal expectations.

Raymond Erick Zvavanyange is the Zimbabwe Country Representative under the Young Professionals for Agricultural Development. He successfully completed a seven-year career in Government of Zimbabwe extension services. Raymond holds a Master of Science degree in Development Studies from Women's University in Africa (Zimbabwe) and a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture and Natural Resources from Africa University (Zimbabwe). He can be reached via Twitter @zvavanyanger3

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