Thursday, November 19, 2009

Gender, Farming, and Climate Change

A report by UN Population Fund suggested that gender relations, family planning, and reproductive health care could all have an impact on how the world adapts to climate change; “the close connection between gender, farming and climate change deserves far more analysis than it currently receives" UNFPA said in their report. Through much analysis, it is clear that the same factors that negatively affect the environment, affect women in a comparable way; this is especially true for poor women in developing countries (

In the United States, much of the Climate Change debate is centered on how it will create jobs and provide for cleaner cities. However, in developing countries around the world, particularly those in South America and Africa that rely heavily on agriculture to sustain not only their families but their communities and economies,there is much more at stake. The working poor in these countries are not fighting for job creation and cleaner energy, they are fighting for their lives and their livelihood.

Women in developing countries are often sent to the farms and fields to earn wages, as agriculture is considered the only ‘suitable’ work for women outside of the home. With limited or no options to leave the home to find income-earning work, or migrate to find such opportunities, women are often locked into not only their trade but also their location. With the lack of mobility and options, it is almost impossible to escape natural disasters; women are exponentially more impacted by weather-related natural disasters than men. In a flash flood, they can lose all of their crops and thus, source of income and access to food, energy, and clean water. It is clear that climate change will have a pervasive and negative affect on the poor women in developing nations who rely on their crops for sustainability and survival; if we work to reverse climate change, we work to empower women. The opposite is true as well.

By increasing health care and access to contraceptives, women are more likely to have less children, slowing down population growth. According to UNFPA, slowing down population growth will have a dramatic affect on (cutting) greenhouse gas emissions and begin the process of slowing down climate change. Education also leads to the ability to learn about more sustainable farming practices. Outside of the obvious environmental effects, more sustainably agriculture has the opportunity to increase economic mobility, independence, and opportunity for women but also increasing their farming capabilities.

The same factors that lead to the degradation of the environment lead to the subordination and disempowerment of women. To help one, we must help the other; when we help both, the situation of the world’s population will improve dramatically.

For more information about women and climate change, check out FMF's Global Campaign website

photo credit: IRRI Rice on Flickr

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