As the stewards of our natural resources in Africa, women disproportionately shoulder the burdens of climate change. They are most vulnerable to its adverse impacts on human welfare; the agricultural cycle; food production and food security.
Yet women’s potential to increase resilience against climate disasters remains untapped due to existing gender biases; restricted land rights, limited access to training, financial resources, technology and policy making. A staggering 70% of women live in poverty, and with reduced access to their basic human rights, means they are 14 times more likely to die in climate-related disasters than men. They often do not receive adequate warnings ahead of a crisis and are left to take care of the children and elderly. In our efforts to tackle climate change, leaders at family, community, national and global levels need to listen to the voices of women and invest in their futures.
The first step towards tackling the challenges of climate change is to empower women to safeguard the environment. 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 finding solutions to prevent further degradation and to adapt to the changing climate; they have a vested interest in doing so.
If given the opportunity, women can increase household and community resilience to mitigate our changing climate. Through community-based associations, they can exchange ideas in a self-organised network and strengthen their positions within the farming community. Community-based action creates ownership and stimulates innovation, so it is more sustainable and strategic.
In Kenya, women own less than 1% of the land and make up 75% of farming labourers. Until recently, they used hand-watering systems to grow vegetables for their families. To improve productivity, the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute introduced female farmers to drip irrigation technologies. These kits helped to deliver water to crops effectively with less effort and at a minimal cost. The use of the drip-kit is spreading rapidly across Kenya and is an example of a successful initiative that has already increased profits and put women on the map.
Investment in these types of technologies and initiatives will enhance sustainable food production. It is also important to reflect women’s knowledge, needs and roles while incorporating indigenous expertise and traditional practices. We can then develop policies that deliver gender-sensitive impacts, giving women access to resources and providing them with opportunities to participate in climate action.
By including women in the creation of policies and strategies around environmental protection we can improve disaster response, secure land & inheritance rights, all the while, replenishing our food resources. Characteristically, women bring empathy and inclusiveness to their networks. They understand what is needed to adapt and often find practical solutions, enhancing their efficiency as sustainability leaders.
Our TreeKenya programme has been designed to ensure women’s equal access to full participation in power structures and decision-making. Starting with advocacy, we raise awareness on the importance of gender complementarity through embracing the unique contribution and perspective of each gender to foster communal success. What’s more with strategic and clear communication, we build on prevailing customs to embrace gender inclusivity for the success of communities.
In summary, a more balanced power structure with equal measures of masculine and feminine qualities is a critical first step for a functioning society. Without such actions, the devastation created by climate change will continue to accelerate with women being the hardest hit.
Rosanna Pycraft, Journalist
Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown
As the existential threat of climate change looms over our planet, no continent will be affected as badly as Africa. Extreme weather events – such as heatwaves, droughts, floods, and soil degradation - are wreaking havoc on smallholder farmers, upsetting yields, food quality and human safety. By 2050, hunger and child malnutrition could increase as much as 20%.
Increasing demand for healthy food, clean water and energy from a growing population are 3 of our greatest global challenges. Although efforts have been made to combat hunger, Africa is battling the impact of climate change and farmers are amongst those most vulnerable.
At the same time, the farmers can be agents for change themselves. Whilst climate change presents challenges for African farmers, it also offers opportunities. If carefully designed, regenerative farming can provide sustainable, economic benefits that help keep the rise in global temperature below the science-backed 1.5c-degree 2030 target. Yet, for Africa to unlock this potential, funding is urgently required in the development of sustainable farming practices.
To reduce the impact of climate change, national governments need to support state & private sector investment in climate information services (CIS) to better understand weather pattern variability, in turn modernising weather monitoring, data collection and modelling to provide greater accuracy of forecasting extreme weather events.
Greater investment is needed in research to understand how different crops and livestock breeds cope with drought, famine, and heat stress. There needs to be more emphasis on providing investment, education and management training in local communities to improve the well-being of farms, build sustainable and resilient ecosystems and undertake projects to increase food production whilst ensuring the natural resource bases are restored.
These climate finance mechanisms should be designed so that farmers can have better access to interventions that sequester carbon in the soil, such as agroforestry systems and better land use management practices.
In Kenya, farmers suffer from unreliable rainfall leading to drought conditions that subsequently increase vulnerability and food insecurity. At TreeKenya, we provide a digital platform backed by climate smart technology and sustainable precision farming that will enable farmers to access accredited markets, information and mitigate risks.
Farmers will benefit from 60% of the carbon credit revenue as a financial incentive, generated by improving farming methods – such as increasing organic matter in soils and planting indigenous trees. In the long term, this will improve the soil’s water absorption, nutrient supply and biodiversity, and help prevent erosion. Better soils also raise farm yields, improving food security and helping agriculture’s resilience to climate change.
At face value, farmer livelihoods and agricultural production in Africa have much to lose with the onset of climate change. However, with the right tools, farmers have the potential to reduce and even reverse greenhouse gas emissions. Their capacity to drive sustainable agricultural development that builds resilience will combat food insecurity and help to limit the global temperature rise.
African agriculture has long suffered from a lack of interest and investment. Both have contributed to the food crisis in the last decade and has left the continent in a perilous position. In its deliberations over which projects to fund, the international climate community has not prioritised Africa and it has often ignored agriculture, Africa’s biggest source of jobs and a crucial contributor to human welfare on the continent.
Investment in smallholder farmer, climate-smart technologies and sustainable methods of production is urgent for the survival of our planet. With it we can harvest the fruits of our labour. Africa should now be top of the climate change agenda.
Rosanna Pycraft, Journalist
Photo: Marco Simola/CIFOR, A Faidherbia Tree
TreeKenya’s Agritech platform connects smallholder farmers to accredited organic, carbon and financial markets
As a major employer and driver of economic growth, agriculture lies at the heart of the Kenyan economy. Yet, out of a population of 46 million, 14.5 million people face food insecurity and poor nutrition every year.
Today, 63% of food in Kenya is produced by smallholder farms. They manage a large share of natural resources – such as water, land and soil – despite very limited access to education, technology, finance and markets. Along with felling, the harsh chemical fertilisers and pesticides used on the lands are damaging and directly contribute to greenhouse gases.
For farmers to respond to the increasing demand for food, they need to be able to rely on well-functioning research and development, training and information systems. In the wake of sustained efforts to modernise farming practices, the role of technology is at the crux of maximising the value chain.
With the right access to the latest technology and agroecological inputs, local farmers can become stewards of biodiverse farmlands that hold great potential for carbon storage. Encouraging farmers to grow a variety of native tree species, using organic-only practices also facilitates the production of healthy and nutritious food.
At TreeKenya, we provide an innovative, free digital platform to enable smallholders to access organic value chains, up-to-date information and digital services. Our agritech initiative, backed by climate-smart technology and sustainable precision farming, aggregates farmers to transform the food and agriculture system.
The proprietary platform merges the best of agriculture, climate, food, finance and technology information. As a Plan Vivo validated Monitoring and Evaluating application, it presents a system change to smallholder regenerative agriculture, improving output and increasing farmer development enriches the livelihoods of farmers and the quality and nutritional value of the crops.
Carbon credits enable the programme and incentivise farmers to plant high-value trees for their nuts, fruits, seeds and leaves – such as moringa, neem, avocado and citrus trees. Coupled with the land converted to certified organic, 60% of carbon sales go straight to the farmer for tree and soil organic sequestration.
Our circular solution secures long-term offtake agreements with organic retailers; establishes organic seed banks at participating schools; and builds a database of farmers with transaction and payment trails, enabling micro-finance & insurance businesses to sell their services.
We aim to arm farmers with the same intelligence as Big Ag – weather, land mapping and precision farming - with satellites monitoring and evaluating. Moreover, we enable access to crop and finance insurance, protecting farmers against growing agricultural risks - particularly locusts, natural disasters, disease and theft.
By providing these services, farmers gain more control over their productive assets and overcome the degradation of the natural resource base. They will also be guaranteed markets for their organic production from farm to fork.
We are at the vanguard of smallholder farmers achieving economies of scale and enhancing their market power.
Rosanna Pycraft, Journalist