In Asia and Africa, the Climate Crisis Is Making Women Farmers More Vulnerable

Women Farmers tea

Female farmers in Central, Eastern, and Southern Africa, as well as in Western and Southern Asia, bear a heavy burden due to the consequences of climate change. Their status within their agri-food economic system renders them more susceptible to climate-related uncertainties. This conclusion is drawn from a study mapping the intersections of climate, agriculture, and gender inequalities, intending to be presented at the upcoming COP28.

An international team of researchers has developed a “hotspot map of inequality” to identify threats facing female farmers. The study examines climate risks as well as gender inequalities. It reveals that the most vulnerable female farmers to these dangers come from Central, Eastern, and Southern Africa, as well as Western and Southern Asia.

Women working in the agri-food sector in low- and middle-income countries are disproportionately exposed to the risks induced by climate change compared to men. This is the conclusion of a study conducted by an international team of researchers and published in the journal Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems. The researchers have devised a map showing areas where climate change-related risks (indicated by color codes based on their intensity) are particularly high for women in agri-food systems. Climate risks, exposure, and vulnerability related to gender inequalities were calculated based on a global ranking of 87 countries in Latin America, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.

The Methodology of the Study

Hotspots of inequalities between climate,
Hotspots of inequalities between climate, agriculture and gender in low- or middle-income countries (LMIICs) around the world. Image: Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems.

The methodology was applied in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Mali, and Zambia to closely assess the situation in these four low-income countries. “We show that significant climate hazards, high exposure faced by women in agri-food systems, and high vulnerability faced by women due to systemic gender inequalities converge particularly in central, east, and southern Africa, as well as in west and south Asia,” stated Els Lecoutere, co-author of the study and researcher for the CGIAR gender platform, developed by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Nairobi, Kenya.

In Mali and Zambia, women’s access to land ownership, information, and financial independence is limited, thereby hindering their ability to adapt to climate risks. In Pakistan and Bangladesh, women contribute significantly to agricultural activities, but mostly in informal ways. “Their work is often unrecognized, unpaid, or underpaid, making them dependent on agriculture and vulnerable to the increasingly frequent and severe impacts of climate risks, such as droughts and floods,” explained the study.

Climate Change and Gender Inequalities

While the link between climate change and increased vulnerability for women (already disadvantaged by gender inequalities) is not new, this research aims to guide policies and investments to reduce these risks and promote gender equality in the context of climate change. “The results of our study can also be used in the upcoming COP28 and ongoing negotiations on a fund for losses and damages, as well as other climate-related investments,” emphasized Els Lecoutere.

The study, however, highlights a significant limitation concerning the lack of data on the harmful impact of heat in certain countries, especially small island developing states. “It is often these locations that are the most poverty- or conflict-stricken, and therefore vulnerable, making it plausible that women in these environments face significant climate risks,” noted the research authors.