Empowering Communities Through Research-Based Climate Solutions

David Arome

While the effects of climate change are indiscriminate and affect all, women are particularly vulnerable and disproportionately impacted. Despite being integral to the rural labor force, women engaged in agriculture and the rural economy encounter numerous challenges that undermine their productivity. For women, climate change is not just a distant threat; it’s a stark reality that disrupts their lives and livelihoods. 

The agricultural sector is highly susceptible to climate shocks, including unpredictable rainfall, rising temperatures, desertification, and droughts, all of which have detrimental effects on agricultural productivity and crop yields. This vulnerability is particularly well-pronounced among women due to their disproportionate representation in the agricultural work space. 

In Nigeria, female farmers face particular difficulties in adapting to climate change due to a variety of factors. These include personal drivers such as family strategies and past experiences, as well as external elements such as access to markets and technology and governmental policies. These multifaceted factors collectively constrain women’s capacity to effectively adapt to the impacts of climate change. 

Several adaptation efforts are made by both government and non-governmental agencies, researchers, and even farmers themselves. Unfortunately, some of these initiatives do not recognize and address the needs of women, who constitute about 75% of Nigeria’s labor workforce, yet are five times less likely to own and access vital resources in the sector. The agricultural sector, including Nigeria, is experiencing underperformance largely due to the multitude of challenges hindering the productivity of women, who play crucial roles in agriculture and the rural economy. Women occupy a very pivotal place in the agricultural sector; hence, their needs and interests must be addressed for adaptation to be effective. 

The launch of the Gender-responsive Climate Change Adaptation Initiative in Nigerian Agriculture (GCAINA) marks a significant step towards addressing the gender gap in climate change adaptation. GCAINA aims to enhance gender-responsive practices and policies in agricultural climate change adaptation in Nigeria by providing reliable evidence for informed decision-making, enhancing climate change knowledge and skills, and fostering strategic partnerships to promote greater inclusivity.

Dr Chinwoke Clara Ifeanyi-obi the Project lead for GCAINA, highlighted the project’s uniqueness in its approach, emphasizing its focus on translating research findings into tangible impacts on people lives. 

Capacity building on innovative crop and soil management practices for climate change adaptation for rural women

Before the training commenced, a survey was conducted to assess the climate change adaptation knowledge of rural women. The survey findings highlighted a significant gap in understanding and capacity among rural women, underscoring it as a key factor contributing to gender disparities in climate change adaptation efforts. In response to these findings, GCAINA initiated and executed capacity-building initiatives aimed at empowering rural women with innovative crop and soil management practices. Dr. Ifeanyi-Obi emphasized the importance of these efforts in bridging the knowledge gap and promoting gender-responsive approaches to climate change adaptation.

Rural women level of CSA knowledge before the training

A two-day training workshop focused on climate-smart practices was held for leaders of rural women’s cooperative societies and agricultural extension agents from all 23 local government areas in River State. The workshop aimed to empower participants with innovative crop and soil management techniques tailored for climate change adaptation and effective cooperative society management.

“Building the resilience of women farmers involves developing their climate change knowledge and skill, increasing their access to information and resources; and mitigating all forms of traditional beliefs and practices that worsen their exclusion,” Dr Ifeanyi-Obi added.  

 “During the training, participants were equipped with knowledge and skills essential for navigating the challenges posed by climate change. They received practical insights into sustainable agricultural practices and cooperative management strategies to help rural women pool their resources together to effectively adapt to climate change. To encourage the adoption of these practices, participants were provided with starter packs containing hybrid maize seeds and cassava stems.” She noted.

Dr. Ifeanyi-Obi who facilitated the training, emphasized the need for rural women cooperative leaders to disseminate the acquired knowledge to members across the state. “The participants made a commitment to ensuring the widespread adoption of climate-smart practices, which would benefit about 600 rural women across the state’s 23 local government areas.”

“The impact of the training extends beyond individual participants. Climate-smart training manuals were developed, enabling broader dissemination of knowledge to other agencies engaged in similar capacity-building efforts. This initiative not only enhances the resilience of rural communities but also strengthens women’s participation in climate change adaptation efforts.”

Moreover, the distribution of hybrid seeds has significantly improved the productivity of rural women, amplifying the positive outcomes of the training. Dr. Ifeanyi-Obi underscored the transformative effect of these interventions on rural women’s capacity to adapt to climate change and contribute to sustainable development in River State.

Rural women level of CSA knowledge after the training

Average profit per sale from traditional and hybrid species

Group pictures taken with some of the participants during the 2 days training workshop

Constraints to Gender-Responsive Agricultural Adaptation in Nigeria

Climate change poses a significant threat to Nigeria’s agricultural sector, particularly impacting farmers and their socio-economic realities. Despite efforts to adapt, numerous challenges hinder the effectiveness of initiatives. These challenges include limited access to timely weather information and agricultural advisory services, inadequate knowledge and skills for climate change adaptation, high costs of improved crop varieties and irrigation, land constraints, government inaction on climate risk management, and insufficient credit and insurance facilities. Climate change impacts vary based on gender, age, and class, necessitating disaggregated data for comprehensive adaptation initiatives. Women, who often face greater vulnerability due to poverty, limited education, and exclusion from decision-making processes, are disproportionately affected. Traditional land ownership systems favoring male inheritance further limit women’s access to resources. Moreover, their restricted participation in decision-making exacerbates inequalities and impedes their contribution to climate-related planning, policymaking, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation. Equal access to resources could significantly boost women’s farm yields. The National Gender Policy in Agriculture (2019) acknowledges the low participation of smallholder women farmers in decision-making and access to agricultural assets as limiting factors to the growth and development of the agricultural sector and provides guidelines for enhancing their inclusion in agricultural processes. Mainstreaming gender into the adaptation discourse is essential for successful agricultural adaptation to climate change.  

Dr. Ifeanyi-Obi emphasized the meaningful achievements of GCAINA in building the resilience of rural women to climate change, thereby contributing to gender-responsive adaptation efforts in Nigeria. The project’s commitment to research uptake activities has not only improved rural livelihoods but also provided valuable evidence for informed decision-making.

“Adapting to climate change realities positioned women farmers to become more productive, and this helped to feed healthy communities and create thriving economies.”

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