Addressing gender in agricultural research for development in the face of a changing climate

By Elizabeth Bryan


Agricultural development policies and interventions that ignore gender dynamics miss opportunities to maximize benefits including increasing resilience to climate change and variability. As more policy-makers and development practitioners acknowledge the importance of addressing gender in their work, these stakeholders can draw on a growing body of research that highlights key entry points for more effectively integrating gender.


A new journal article titled “Addressing gender in agricultural research for development in the face of a changing climate” summarizes key research on gender and climate change conducted under the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security (CCAFS). This work, which draws on different data sources and methodologies, shows that women’s contribution to increasing climate resilience is limited by their lack of access to information, formal and informal institutions that limit women’s response options, lack of access to natural and productive resources, and limited decision-making authority among other constraints.


While studies across a range of sites consistently identified these broad barriers, the extent to which specific factors hinder women’s involvement in climate-smart agriculture (CSA) depends largely on the local context. Therefore, the research provides guidance on the key factors that need to be considered in the context of a particular region or project.


The study also highlights several remaining research gaps and identifies future research areas and potential approaches. First, while there is now information on gendered preferences for CSA practices and improved understanding of the causes of gender differentials in capacity to respond to climate risks, the distribution of costs and benefits of different CSA practices among members of the same household remain under-studied.  Second, there is insufficient information on the potential outcomes from women’s engagement in climate resilience programs.


Third, while we understand many of the barriers to access and adoption of climate-smart options that meet women’s needs, challenges remain on how to overcome these across varying local contexts in a cost-effective way.  To gain insight into these questions requires rigorous qualitative work that grounds quantitative data within local contexts, action research that promotes joint learning between researchers and the communities in which they work, and new methods for collecting data over longer periods of time (such as ICT-based survey tools) in order to track changes in outcomes for men and women.


Ultimately, promoting gender-transformative, climate-smart solutions increases the likelihood of achieving not only positive gender-related outcomes, but also reducing poverty and increasing sustainability. Achieving this goal requires greater collaboration between and among research organizations and implementing partners to share knowledge, tools, and approaches. It also requires building capacity on gender within key organizations, such as government agencies, as other recent CCAFS supported research has shown. Only then will future programs, projects, and investments adequately address climate change concerns while meeting the needs women and other vulnerable segments of society. Better integrating research and practice, and designing information, tools, practices, interventions, and M&E strategies with gender in mind can accelerate progress towards achieving many development objectives, while enabling women to become agents of their own empowerment.