6 March 2014

Africa: New IFAD Report Shows Rural Women Are Key to Unlocking Economic and Social Benefits of Adaptation

press release

In advance of International Women's Day, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) launched a report today that highlights the vital role women smallholder farmers play in delivering both economic and social benefits when provided the right tools for adapting to climate change.

The report, The Gender Advantage: Women on the front line of climate change, shows that successful adaptation to climate change means recognizing the role of women smallholder farmers. It describes the lives of millions of women around the world who have been able to better support their families and communities because on gender-sensitive adaptation.

"At IFAD, we believe in people-centered solutions that include solutions for climate change," said Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of IFAD. "We need adaptation solutions that build on the diverse knowledge, priorities and capacities of women and men."

The theme of this year's International Women's Day is 'Equality for women is progress for all', which will be commemorated by IFAD, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Food Programme at an event at FAO's Rome-based headquarters on 7 March.

IFAD Vice-President Michel Mordasini will give remarks at the event, which will also highlight issues around the post-2015 development agenda and activities of the International Year of Family Farming 2014.

IFAD recognizes that rural women are on the front line of climate change impacts. Experience shows that women are central to improving the lives of their families and communities, playing a pivotal role in adaptation initiatives.

In Nigeria, for example, women are at the heart of the IFAD-supported Climate Change Adaptation and Agribusiness Support Programme, which provides credit and seed capital for income-generating activities, specifically targeting women. It also promotes women in decision-making roles.

"I am one of the first that benefitted from the IFAD project," said Hajia Nafisa, community leader, Jigawa State, Nigeria. "I received goats, seed support and improved technologies. I have six goats now for myself, after selling seven and giving one to my daughter . I bought a motorcycle for my son to run a taxi service, and my last daughter is in private secondary school. I supported my husband with N20,000 for his business and I bought a bicycle for myself."

In Swaziland, women in the Vikizijula area came together and built water harvesting tanks to provide potable water for their families, adapting to climate change impacts ,while also learning new and profitable skills.

"I want to start a vegetable garden so I can grow vegetables for sale," said Gertrude Gadlela, a single parent of seven. "With the money I get I will buy a few basic commodities and build another tank, because my aim is to have at least three of them."

In 2012, IFAD launched the Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP), which draws on the Fund's own policy on gender equality and women's empowerment.

The policy states that strengthening gender equality makes a major contribution to improving food security, reducing child malnutrition and promoting inclusive economic growth that can lift rural people out of poverty. ASAP puts gender equality and women's empowerment at its heart because, as the report demonstrates, full participation of women means greater resilience for the whole community.

The case studies in the report outline how, when adaptation is geared toward specific challenges faced by women smallholder farmers, it creates a virtuous cycle that improves economic options, incomes and yields, and reduces workloads for women and their families.

"We know from experience that we will never achieve true food security and poverty eradication unless we promote gender equality and empower women," Nwanze said. "This is true for those trying to solve the climate crisis. I hope that on International Women's Day, IFAD's work will inspire others to ensure that partnerships in all areas of development include partnerships with women."

Download a copy of the report The Gender Advantage: Women on the front line of climate change report.

Read more information on IFAD's climate resilience work through the Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme.

Take a look at our photo story on working with women farmers in Nepal in partnership with SNV Netherlands Development Organisation. Read about the women's personal experiences of receiving support and training and the difference it makes to their families and their communities.

B-Roll is available from James Heer, Manager, Broadcast Communications, TEL +39 06 5459 2550, Email j.heer@ifad.org.

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