Understanding gender dimensions of agriculture and climate change in smallholder farming communities

Men participating in co-benefit analysis in Teanoba, Ghana. Photo by: Taylor Spicer (CCAFS).

Men participating in co-benefit analysis in Teanoba, Ghana. Photo by: Taylor Spicer (CCAFS).









The effects of climate change are already being felt in the south, impacting poor and vulnerable smallholder farmers the most. These consequences however vary geographically, with more unpredictable and extreme weather events expected in future.

Rural women are more likely to be at risk from the negative effects of climate change, as they often have to take on additional agricultural work, alongside their domestic responsibilities as men migrate for labour. Women have less access than men to land, extension services and inputs that are needed for adaptation to changing climate patterns. Gendered social norms may also be hinder women’s adaptive capacity.

14416222740_b796644642_oResearch objective

Scientists from various CGIAR centres and other institutions in Ghana, Bangladesh and Uganda undertook a study to develop and test participatory tools for investigating gender dimensions of agriculture and climate change. Tools were analyzed in terms of ease and consistency of implementation, and the strengths of the pilot test results in terms of generating information for more gender equitable agricultural development strategies and solutions.



The study was carried out in Bangladesh, Ghana and Uganda, within the context of a multi-year research programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). This study centred on three themes:

  • Engaging in climate-smart agricultural practices
  • Sharing adaptation strategies in villages that share similar climates
  • Accessing and using climate information.

One village was purposively selected from each site on basis of the ability of village leaders to provide information related to CCAFS work, village size of more than 50 households and ease of access. The researchers used focus group discussions, with data recoding using standardized forms that were divided by sex to capture nuanced gendered understanding of potential climate change adaptation methods.

A joint men and women session of wealth and vulnerability analysis in Jawani Ghana. Photo by: Taylor Spicer (CCAFS).

A joint men and women session of wealth and vulnerability analysis in Jawani Ghana. Photo by: Taylor Spicer (CCAFS).


In all study sites, changes in rainfall patterns were reported. To cope with these uncertainties, men are more likely to adopt climate-smart agriculture practices than women.

According to the study, men are generally more able to travel than women to learn on climate-smart agriculture practices from analogue villages. Women’s mobility is hampered by factors such as lack of funds to pay for transportation, inability to ride bicycles, poor infrastructure, security, health, household responsibilities and lack of permission from their spouses. Both men and women were however aware of innovators in neighbouring villages.

In all the three sites, climate information is received in various ways including text messages, radio and by word of mouth particularly for women. Indigenous knowledge on weather and climate is trusted. Men have more access to climate information than women do. Differences were however access to seasonal climate information in Bangladesh and confidence in climate information from government sources in Uganda.

Smallholders are changing agricultural practices due to observations of climatic and environmental change. Women appear to be less adaptive due to financial or resource constraints, because of male domination in receiving information and extension services. Moreover, available adoption strategies tend to create high labour demands for women.

The climate analogue approach (identifying places resembling your future climate so as to identify potential adaptations) is a promising tool for increasing farmer-to-farmer learning. However, women have restricted mobility because of social norms and cost, making it difficult for them to visit other villages. Use of videos and other visualizations could add a lot of value in situations where it is not easy to move around.

Institutional issues related for forecast productions limit their credibility and salience, particularly in terms of women’s ability to access and understand them. The participatory tools used in this study provided some insights into women’s adaptive capacity in the villages studied, but not to the depth necessary to address women’s specific vulnerabilities in CSA programmes.

Building the needed capacity to conduct gender and social inclusion research

Based on the findings of this tool, CCAFS, together with CARE International, the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), along with dozens of practitioners, scientists, farmers, NGO professionals and academics developed the Gender & Inclusion Toolbox: Participatory Research in Climate Change & Agriculture.

The toolbox focuses on increasing the research capacity, skills and knowledge of its users, including non-governmental organisations, research for development programs, researchers and rural development actors engaging in climate change and agriculture work. For CCAFS, the toolbox is part of a larger social learning approach which emphasises self-reflexive, iterative and shared learning platforms that seek to integrate diverse actors and sources of knowledge.


Download the full paper here.

Jost C.C., Kyazze, F.B., Naab, J., Neelormi, S., Kinyangi, J., Zougmore, R., Aggarwal, P.K., Bhatta, G.D., Chaudhury, M., Tapio-Bistrom, M.-L., Nelson, S., Kristjanson, P.  Understanding Gender Dimensions of Agriculture and Climate Change in Smallholder Farming Communities.  Climate and Development, DOI: 10.1080/17565529.2015.1050978


Further reading

Jost C, Ferdous N and Spicer T. 2014. Gender and Inclusion Toolbox: Participatory Research in Climate Change and Agriculture. CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). Copenhagen: Denmark.

Nelson S, Chaudhury M, Tranberg H, Lambrou Y, Tapio-Biström ML, Kristjanson P. 2011. Training guide. Gender and Climate Change Research in Agriculture and Food Security for Rural Development. Copenhagen, Denmark: CGIAR Research program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS)


Susan Onyango

Susan Onyango is the Global Communications Coordinator at the World Agroforestry Centre and is based at the headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya. With over 15 year’s experience in communication, she ensures efficient and effective coordination of communication support to units and regions at ICRAF. She joined ICRAF in 2014 as communications specialist for the Climate Change Unit. Susan holds a MA communication studies and a BA in English. Twitter: @susanonyango

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