Increasingly, it is becoming difficult to discuss agriculture and development projects without discussing the inclusion of gender into research and implementation.
Gender dynamics weren’t mentioned in the title of the session, “Climate Smart Agriculture for healthy landscapes and livelihoods,” hosted by the Association of International Research and Development Centers for Agriculture (AIRCA) and the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center (CATIE) at this year’s Global Landscapes Forum. But the issue came up organically on more than one occasion, showcasing just how the role of gender equality in agricultural development programs is increasingly critical to the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Trevor Nicholls, CEO of The Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI), highlighted the necessity of bringing women into the fore. Nicholls emphasized that the reservoirs of knowledge stored in local communities where development efforts take place are critical to access in order to deal with the challenges of climate change.
“Women and youth are critical resources in [harnessing local support] and we need to bring them on board, and indeed positively tailor the approaches to the involvement of women and youth,” he said. In conjunction with increasing involvement of the, “people in a landscape [who] know what’s best,” CABI has found that when resources such as education and finances are increased for women, community-wide welfare gains happen.
In order to increase the effectiveness of agriculture and development projects aimed at achieving the SGDs, the inclusion of women seems to be a key component of any successful project, regardless of the specific environment.
The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) focuses on mountainous regions in its work, and acknowledges that specific kinds of landscapes require locally relevant methods. But there was one component of all of ICIMOD’s most successful projects that remained the same.
When questioned about the high rate of success that Dr. Eklabya Sharma’s Climate Smart Village program experiences, he attributed the triumph to the involvement of women. “In this particular program we have picked the smartness, and that is the women. Eighty-eight per cent of our partners, with whom we work, are women,” said Dr. Sharma.
He had to pause in his response due to the outbreak of applause.
This approach permeates Dr. Sharma’s (and ICIMOD’s) work. In 2014, ICIMOD released research that identified how women are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change, and how their programs empowered them to change these dynamics—resulting in decreased vulnerability for both women and the communities in which they live.
It is studies like these—from ICIMOD, CABI, CATIE, and others—that are contributing to the transition towards gender equity in communities. This transformation away from agriculture-and-development as usual is not simply altruistic, but is increasingly acknowledged as a scientifically necessary element for successful climate change adaptation programs. The explicit inclusion of women and the need to establish legal infrastructures that guarantee their rights to hold assets are prerequisites to poverty reduction and climate change mitigation.
It is no wonder that those attending the conference had an irrepressible urge to applaud organizations that actively embrace the connection between the inclusion of women and smart, successful agricultural development.