Achieving sustainable development is impossible without addressing inequalities which hinder people from accessing opportunities and utilizing their potential to change their own situation.

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Gender based inequalities cut across all inequalities and deepens the disadvantages of people, reinforcing their poverty. Development Connect works with its clients to enable women, men and youth smallholder farmers to enhance their productivity and income to improve their living condition; as women represent a significant portion of smallholder farmers as they constitute the more disadvantaged sector of the community they are a key target of any engagement.

Gender is a critical dimension of climate-smart agriculture. There are several reasons why.

Firstly, the existence of social inequalities within rural areas globally due to natural differences (i.e. sex) and socio-economic reasons (i.e. gender and economic status) shape access to opportunities, and benefits to services and resources. The disadvantaged position of women in married and female headed households has a drawback on achieving increased production and productivity.

And secondly, agricultural growth is only one solution to tackling issues such as food and nutrition insecurity, and poverty that climate change exacerbates. We simply are not going to see the transformative changes in agriculture and food systems that we need to see without also tackling gender issues.

A significant opportunity

With more variable rainfall and higher temperatures, most farmers will have to shift what they produce, and how they produce it. This includes putting more time, money and effort into soil and water management practices, planting trees, growing legumes, adopting stress tolerant varieties, shifting from maize to sorghum, or from cattle to goats, to name just a few examples of key climate-smart opportunities for smallholders in many regions of the world. New research is showing just how grossly neglected and under-served smallholders, especially women farmers, within food systems in lower-income countries have been. They don’t receive the agricultural and climate information they need, and have much less access to inputs, credit and services than do men. These women not only produce food, but they also prepare it and are responsible for the nutrition of the family. So, there is definitely something wrong with this picture, and a significant opportunity to address this glaring gap.

At the farm-level, climate-smart agriculture is something farmers are already doing, but with varying degrees of success. Most recognize, and are trying to cope with, their changing climates. These climate-smart practices include tasks such as planting fruit, fodder and fuel trees on farms. These can save much time and effort for those women who go out to collect fodder and fuel wood, for example. They also can include soil conservation efforts, which in some circumstances may greatly increase women’s time spent on weeding and other tasks. Thus, we need to understand the costs and benefits of these practices, not just for households, but also for individuals and the environments in which they live.

Turning these challenges into opportunities however, is easier said than done. How can we best tap into the potential of women farmers? How can we keep young people in farming and create good jobs for them elsewhere in the food system?

Read more about that under the service lines gender equality and empowering women and girls.