Do male and female farmers adopt different strategies to climate change?
Mavis Akuffobea-Essilfie is a Senior Research Scientist and a CIRCLE Fellow at the Science and Technology Policy Research Institute (CSIR-STEPRI) in Ghana. The CIRCLE (Climate Impacts Research Capacity and Leadership Enhancement) Fellowship is a post-masters and post-doctoral fellowship scheme, that aims to develop the skills and research capabilities? of African early career researchers in the field of climate change. CIRCLE is implemented through the AESA Platform. AESA (Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa) is a funding, agenda-setting, programme management initiative of the African Academy of Sciences (AAS), the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD), founding and funding global partners, and through a resolution of the summit of African Union Heads of Governments. CIRCLE is supported by the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU).
Akuffobea-Essilfie Mavis used her grant funding to help her local community adapt to the impact of climate change in Ghana and in Africa. In this blog post, she explains the negative impact climate change has on farmers’ livelihoods and its impact on men and women.
Climate change threatens agriculture and food security. The effects of which are strongly felt in Ghana, where the livelihoods of those living in rural communities are increasingly threatened as many are dependent on natural resources. This has been recognised by the Government of Ghana who have developed climate change programmes and a National Climate Change Policy with sector-specific strategies and action plans.
However, the impact of climate change is differently felt among various social groups due to for example gender inequality. Women are more severely impacted than men as they face social, economic and political barriers that limit their access to resources, which can hinder their capacity to adapt. The difference in vulnerability to climate change determines how well one can cope and whether they can shift from short term coping mechanisms to resilience.
There is limited in-depth analysis of the differentiated impacts of climate change on livelihoods of different identities and social groups. I used my CIRCLE programme funding to help fill the gap on the gender dimension of climate change to create awareness among policy and decision-makers about the need for gender differentiated adaptation policies to climate change.
Coping mechanisms and adaptation strategies
My team and I collected quantitative and qualitative data in six rural communities in Ghana using household surveys to assess the adaptation strategies employed by both men and women and examined their perspectives on the opportunities and challenges to adapt to climate variability.
The farmers reported that climate change had negative effects on their productivity and income levels. Explaining that crop or livestock productivity levels declined due to bad weather conditions, loss of crops or livestock resulted in reduced income and poor quality of harvest would decrease the sale of their products.
Although adaptation strategies to mitigate against climate change were generally low in the community, with less than 50% of households changing their habits, some did try to adapt by increasing the size of the land they cultivated, changed crop variety, planted different crops, changed date of planting crop and planted trees on farms. A few farmers would turn to soil and water conservation, or water harvesting practices, engaged in non-farm income activity and crop insurance.
We found slight differences in the way men and women responded. While men are more likely to change the crop varieties they cultivate in the face of climate variability, more women would store food as an adaptation strategy to get through tough periods (see table).
We suggest that government policies should address and implement adaptation options for each unique climate distress event to reduce vulnerability of the different gender groups in times of crisis. Also, government and development partners need to invest in irrigation schemes to not only harvest excess rainwater during floods, but to act as reservoirs during drought to reduce household vulnerability to food availability and security.
Better access to resources
We organised two research uptake workshops with stakeholders at local and national level to influence the implementation of the existing climate change policy and action plan. The first was held on 11th April 2018 at Agogo in the Asante Akim North District, with thirty-three local stakeholders from six stakeholder institutions, and we were joined by farmers too.
The second research uptake workshop was with stakeholders at national level. The Ghana National Learning Alliance (GH-NLA) under the Sustainable Agricultural Intensification Research and Learning in Africa (SAIRLA) programme which organised a policy symposium on the theme “Gender Equity/ Inequity and Responsiveness to Climate Smart Agriculture” with the aim of discussing its implications on Sustainable Agricultural Intensification in Ghana. The workshop specifically aimed to engage stakeholders to identify the different policies and mechanisms that could provide smallholder farmers, including women and young people, with better access to resources and information relating to Sustainable Agricultural Intensification (SAI).
Participating in the CIRCLE research programme not only gave me a unique experience where I got to meet individuals across academic, professional and geographic boundaries, but it has strengthened my capacity in climate change research to help my local community and the vulnerable adapt to the impact of climate variability in Ghana and in Africa.