Climate change and environmental degradation represent a great threat to poverty reduction and to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Women bear the brunt of climate change but they are the world’s best bet in the fight for a clean, healthy and sustainable planet.
Given their traditional roles in agricultural production, and as the procurers of water, cooking fuel, and other household resources, women are not only well suited to find solutions to prevent further degradation and adapt to the changing climate, they have vested interest in doing so.
Across the globe, agriculture is recognised as an important engine of growth and poverty reduction.
The sector which grew by 3.58 per cent, contributed 26.84 per cent to the overall GDP in real term in the fourth quarter of 2021, lower than the contribution in the fourth quarter of 2020 and third quarter of 2021 which stood at 26.95 per cent and 29.94 per cent respectively.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the sector is under-performing in many countries in part because women, who are often a crucial resource in agriculture and the rural economy, face constraints that reduce their productivity.
Thus, this brief draws on the available empirical evidence on how climate change affects women in agriculture, to what degree and suggest solutions to mitigating the impacts on women farmers for effective productivity and food security.
The word climate change refers to the significant and long-lasting change in the Earth’s climate and weather pattern. Evidence indicates that climate change, such as rising sea levels, changing weather patterns, heat waves, drought, and other natural disasters, have particularly adversely impacted those who depend on agriculture for their livelihood and survival, especially women.
The productivity of crops and livestock is directly impacted by temperature, precipitation, water concentration, and extreme weather. In some of these contexts, women are mostly vulnerable to their effects primarily because they constitute the majority of the world’s poor and are more dependent for their livelihood on natural resources that are threatened by climate change.
According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the poor are especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change, and the majority of the 1.5 billion people living on US$ 1 a day or less are women.
Meanwhile, women constitute 60 per cent of the agricultural labour force, 80 per cent of food producers and 50 per cent of animal husbandry and other related activities in Nigeria.
Despite this population, they have poor access to information on climate change mitigation, especially on good farming practices, seasonality, data on yields, soil health, and weather patterns.
Also, small holders’ women farmers are often confined to traditional tools, which in most cases prolong working hours and reduce productivity. This makes them more vulnerable to the impact of climate change.
The 2022 allocation to Women’s Economic Empowerment (WEE) projects, however, recorded 101 per cent increase (N103 billion) compared to the 2021 (N51.3 billion) budget.
This implies that less than 1 per cent of the 2022 budget was allocated to WEE programmes in a year that the Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari, promised “gender-responsive budgeting”.
An analysis of the 2022 budget by the Development Research and Project Centre (DRPC), shows that the N103 billion allocated to WEE projects constitute 0.60 per cent of the budget.
The organisation defined the concept of WEE as the “transformative process by which women and girls go from having limited power, voice, and choices at home and in the economy to having the skills, resources, and opportunities needed to access and compete equitably in markets and the agency to control and benefit from economic gains”.
It identified four basic elements: Human Capital (education, skill and training), Financial Capital (loan, grants, saving), Social Capital (mentorship, network, etc.) and Physical Capital (land, machinery, etc.), which are parameters, the DRPC considers necessary preconditions for sustainable economic and social development.
The organisation said it uses the elements to categorise MDAs according to the degree of relationship between their mandate and WEE.
“This led us to come up with 17 ministries whose mandates are core to women’s economic empowerment. However, if the criterion is extended to ministries with women-specific (and women+) interventions and projects, the number increases to 24.
“The analysis is guided by codes that were used to identify and track projects.
“These are classified into two categories: (a) Women-core WEE projects with the keywords: female, girl, widow, ladies, and wives. (b) women+others with the keywords: men and women, female and male, women and youth, women and people with disability, women and children, women and graduates, women and farmers, women and artisans, women and elderly, etc.”
“The data was analysed using a quantitative method, including comparative and trend analysis, DRPC said.
With an overview of the 2022 budget of “Economic Growth and Sustainability”, the 2022 budget is based on the oil price benchmark of US$62 per barrel with a daily oil production estimate of 1.88 million barrels.
The exchange rate was pegged at N410.15 per US Dollar while the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth is projected at 4.2 per cent at the end of the budget cycle.
The lawmakers approved a total expenditure of N17.1 trillion against the N16.3 trillion proposed by the president in October. Over N700 billion was added to the proposed appropriation which the president later signed but complained about.
A further breakdown of the DRPC analysis shows that the Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Development has the highest WEE funding with N33.18 billion. The new figure is a N19 billion (136 per cent) increase compared to 2021.
The Ministry of Women Affairs has the second-highest WEE allocation with N18.82 billion; Ministry of Education, N14.17 billion; Ministry of Labour and Employment, N10.47 billion; and the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, N5.6 billion.
According to FAO, it is estimated that roughly 30–40 per cent of all food produced is lost between harvest and consumption. In underdeveloped countries, about 40 per cent is lost on farm or during distribution due to poor storage and distribution.
On the other hand, the increasing role that rural women are playing in smallholder agriculture provides an important opportunity to positively impact food production and security in a changing climate.
Women Farmers said that they are experiencing changes in rainfall duration and intensity, more erratic rainfall patterns and more prolonged droughts.
As a result, they said it is increasingly difficult to plan and make agricultural decisions. They associate the emergence of new crop diseases and pests with climate change.
They also said that the changes in agricultural practices in villages are lower incomes, less household food availability, less access to resources for improved agricultural production and, on the positive side, more opportunities for training.
They said that they are looking at several strategies in order to cope with perceived changes in climate patterns.
According to them, the most frequent change they have seen is intercropping, followed by dry planting before the rains starts, earlier planting, adopting drought-resistant varieties and making adjustments in the timing of weeding and harvesting.
Mrs Maimuna Abdullahi, Health Economist, said that climate change affects everything from geopolitics to economies to migration, and shapes cities and life expectancies.
Abdullahi, who is also the Head of Monitoring and Evaluation, African Health Budget Network (AHBN), said if Nigeria wants to see its economy prosper, it must enact the domestic policy and structural reforms that would empower women and MSMEs.
“Flexing what has been an underutilised muscle will enable us to realise new and measurable gains – including a credible response to the concerns around growing wealth inequality,” she said.
She said that the empowerment of Nigerian women in the economy and closing the gender gaps in the country are key to achieving the 2030 Agenda for SDGs.
She added that the SDGs Goal five is to achieve gender equality, and Goal eight, to promote full and productive employment and decent work for all.
“Also Goal one on ending poverty, Goal two on food security, Goal three on ensuring health and Goal 10 on reducing inequalities.
“More than budgetary allocation which is needed, is the use of what is allocated transparently with accountability, using what is allocated for intended purpose and networking with other players and stakeholders to avoid duplication of efforts,” she said.
Dr Edwin Isotu Edeh, Public Health and Environment (PHE) Programme Coordinator, World Health Organisation (WHO) in Nigeria, said that climate change is driving health inequities and conflicts across the world, with women and girls facing increased vulnerabilities to all forms of gender-based violence, including conflict-related sexual violence and human trafficking.
Edeh said that it is, therefore, imperative to push for increased financing for programmes and women-focused initiatives, especially in rural communities and fragile settings to address climate concerns in the country.
“Changes in ozone, greenhouse gases and climate change affect agricultural producers greatly because agriculture and fisheries depend on specific climate conditions.
“Temperature changes can cause habitat ranges and crop planting dates to shift and droughts and floods due to climate change may hinder farming practices,” he said.
According to Mrs Talibat Hussain, Senior advisor on gender and livelihood on the DRPC-PAWED project, “as the compelling reality of climate change sets in, there is the need for government at all levels to provide irrigation facilities and equipment to women farmers to mitigate the impact of drought”.
Hussain said that there is also the need to promote the use of alternative energy sources such as biofuel to curb the deforestation and the need for government to carry out gender-specific in-depth evidence-based research on climate change.
“There is also the need for government at the national and sub-national levels to develop a framework that will ensure that gender-sensitive indicators are used during government climate change adaption and mitigation planning. This will integrate gender perspectives into government’s climate change action plans.
“There is the need for government to provide affordable modern technology for women farmers to adapt and mitigate the adverse effects of climate change, and also a need for the government at all levels to act on the recommendations of the Beijing Declaration, as follows –
“To increase training in technical, managerial, agricultural extension and marketing areas for women in agriculture, fisheries, industry and business, arts and crafts, to increase income-generating opportunities, women’s participation in economic decision-making.
“This in particular is through women’s organisations at the grass-roots level, and their contribution to production, marketing, business, and science and technology,” she said.
She said that there was need for government to redeem the pledged to reduce Nigeria greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent by 2030 in line with the Paris Agreement ratified in 2017.
According to her, effective implementation of the National Climate Change Policy for Nigeria 2021-2030 as well as the National Action Plan on Gender and Climate Change for Nigeria 2020-2025 will go a long way to mitigating the effect of climate change on women.
By Abujah Racheal