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Why should China include a gender perspective in its climate change policies?

A Tibetan woman waters barley and vegetables. Photo by ICRAF
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A Tibetan woman waters barley and vegetables. Photo by ICRAF

Women are playing a leading role in coping with and adapting to climate change in the mountainous rural areas of China’s Yunnan province, where disruptions in weather patterns and increasingly extreme events are expected to impact agricultural livelihoods.

However, while women are assuming more responsibility than men, their voices are mostly excluded from the policy-making processes that affect their daily lives.

A study on adaptation to water related hazards and climate change conducted in this southwestern province by researchers from the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) and the Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences demonstrates the importance of gender inclusion in responses to climate change in the region and warns that the lack of a gender perspective in Chinese policy-making could undermine climate adaptation efforts. The study was part of an international research project under the Himalayan Climate Change Adaptation Programme (HICAP).

“Women in the region have important responsibilities as managers of natural and household resources and are therefore well positioned to contribute to adaptation strategies. But they are more vulnerable than men to climate change as they face more social, economic, and political barriers limiting their adaptive capacity,” said Su Yufang, ICRAF China’s deputy director and the lead author of the study.

“HICAP is generating knowledge of climate change impacts on natural resources, ecosystem services and the communities that depend on them, contributing to policy and practice for enhanced adaptation.”

Read also: Gendered Responses to Drought in Yunnan Province, China

Based on surveys undertaken during a record-breaking drought in 2012, the study explores how women and men in Haitang, a village in Yunnan’s Baoshan Prefecture, perceive and respond to drought and how the changing roles of women and men in the home and the community are influencing water management at the village level.

A woman and child cross a river, in an area where poverty is often caused by physical inaccessibility for mountain people. Photo by ICRAF

In Haitang, off-farm wage labor outside the community has for some years been an important income-generating strategy. As the drought continued, increasing numbers of men as well as some younger women migrated, and the remaining women assumed more responsibility for agricultural production. However, traditional social norms continue to limit women’s decision-making power in household farming enterprises and in community resource management.

Water management and gender

One of the important findings from the study was that men and women use strikingly different approaches when faced with water shortages and their consequences on agriculture. Less than half of the men in the village reported simply waiting for the rain, while less than a fifth reported transporting water to their crops.

The preferences for women, however, were reversed, with just under half reporting that they transported water to their crops, and less than one fifth claiming to simply wait for rain. In addition, the women actively pursued more immediate responses to drought than men by, for example, decreasing the cultivated area or adjusting the timing of planting. And as the drought continued, men and women showed further differences, with women being more likely to consider shifting into forestry and animal husbandry after successive low yields.

Another interesting finding related to the definition of “collecting water”. Men understood gathering water as looking for new sources of water when old sources dried up, which is their main responsibility, but the actual carrying was primarily women’s responsibility. But while the men believed they were responsible for coping with the water shortage in the household, it was actually women’s daily workload that was more significantly increased.

A Tibetan girl holds a baby yak, a animal that helps to provide energy for heating and cooking in rural areas. Photo by ICRAF

At the community level the study observed that although technically possible, no woman has ever been appointed as a water manager. The managers are selected by the village committee and approved by a meeting of the villagers’ representatives. They are responsible for water tank and pipe maintenance and for domestic water allocation at the village level.

Both men and women said that this was due to the skills and physical strength needed to repair pipes and water infrastructure, as well as a perception that it fell outside women’s traditional domestic roles. However, as water scarcity continued, conflicts over water allocation became more frequent, and both men and women acknowledged that women have become increasingly active in monitoring water allocation along with water managers in order to reduce the risk of fights among the men. Women are seen as able to solve these conflicts and ensure equal distribution through negotiation rather than physical fighting.

Read also: Update on gender research projects

A socioeconomic focus for China’s climate change adaptation policies

As the effects of climate change become more tangible, national and provincial governments have announced new policies and governance mechanisms for drought response and climate change adaptation, but none of these policies address gender issues.

The case for more attention to the gender dimensions and impacts of climate change becomes critical as agricultural production becomes increasingly feminized and women take on multiple and non-traditional roles. The study’s findings indicate that women are taking on an increasingly active role in managing water during droughts but they are still excluded from formal decision-making about water management at the community level.

Based on these findings, the study recommends the adoption of new climate change policies that:

  • Consider gendered differences in vulnerability and value women’s traditional knowledge and practical experience.
  • Provide local communities, and particularly women, with climate change information and technologies to improve their adaptive capacity.
  • Ensure women’s participation in the planning and construction of drinking water and irrigation facilities to ensure these facilities meet women’s needs.
  • Support women’s participation in community-based water management bodies, and promote the development of women’s organizations.

The lack of information and meaningful engagement with gender issues could lead to unfit government-supported adaptation responses that may not address the different priorities and needs of rural women, further marginalizing them, and will hinder the opportunity to benefit from women’s active contribution to water management.

By Ana Maria Paez-Valencia and Manon Koningstein, originally published at ICRAF’s Agroforestry World


This research is part of the Himalayan Climate Change Adaptation Programme (HICAP), which is supported by the governments of Norway and Sweden and jointly implemented by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research at Oslo (CICERO) and GRID-Arendal in collaboration with local partners. Additional funding was provided by the gender cross-cutting component of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA).

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Update on gender research projects

Focus group discussion in Forish Forestry Enterprise, Jizzakh Province, Uzbekistan. Photo: N. Muhsimov/Uzbek Republican Scientific and Production Centre of Ornamental Gardening and Forestry
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ICRAF | Bioversity International | CIAT | CIFOR

Climate change is severely affecting Yunnan Province. Photo: Louis Putzel/CIFOR
Climate change is severely affecting Yunnan Province. Photo: Louis Putzel/CIFOR

ICRAF

Gender and climate change in China’s Yunnan Province

In 2016, the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) East and Central Asia office (ECA) has made significant progress on gender and climate change research to inform policy makers in China’s Yunnan Province.

First, ICRAF-ECA has recently been investigating how gender affects climate change adaptation throughout Yunnan. This Poverty and Vulnerability Analysis China Gender Report will be published as a working paper before the end of this year.

It is a part of a wider initiative investigating how gender has influenced climate change adaptation throughout the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) region, conducted by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), which includes Nepal, Pakistan and India. All research teams involved in this initiative used the Livelihood Vulnerability Index, developed by Hahn in 2009.

Preliminary results show that climate change has severely affected Yunnan Province and that few interventions have tried to better prepare local communities for future changes in livelihoods, water availability and natural disasters. It seems that most households are extremely vulnerable and have few resources to support short or long-term mitigation efforts in response to climate change. In this context, gender is one of the factors in predicting adaptation and vulnerability.

Additionally a paper on gender-specific responses to drought in Yunnan Province is currently being revised in line with comments received from journal reviewers. This paper reveals that during the period of record-breaking drought from 2009-2012, women’s changing role in agriculture and household resource management had important consequences for individual and community responses to water resource stresses.

Perceptions of drought impacts and of responses to the drought differed significantly according to gender. However, government policies and practices which aim to support adaptation and adaptive capacity have so far failed to take this gender differentiation into account, and as a result may be out of step with local drought responses, and may even serve to further marginalize mountain women in water resource management.

Finally two Chinese language book chapters about gender and climate change adaptation will be included in the book “Gender analysis of climate change impacts and adaptation” (in Chinese), also to be published this year.

A workshop is planned before the end of the year in Yunnan to disseminate the book among government officers and discuss relevant research findings and policy options.

For more information please contact Yufang Su at [email protected]


Focus group discussion in Forish Forestry Enterprise, Jizzakh Province, Uzbekistan. Photo: N. Muhsimov/Uzbek Republican Scientific and Production Centre of Ornamental Gardening and Forestry
Focus group discussion in Forish Forestry Enterprise, Jizzakh Province, Uzbekistan. Photo: N. Muhsimov/Uzbek Republican Scientific and Production Centre of Ornamental Gardening and Forestry

Bioversity International

Project: Conservation for diversified and sustainable use of fruit tree genetic resources in Central Asia

The project ‘Conservation for diversified and sustainable use of fruit tree genetic resources in Central Asia’ aims to improve the prospects for long-term food security and livelihoods of farmers in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Its focus is on generating and disseminating knowledge about fruit and nut tree species, including traits that are important for adaptation and nutrition, their patterns of genetic diversity and how to effectively conserve them.

As primary users and custodians of fruit trees, both women and men play a key role in the management, conservation and transfer of fruit tree resources to future generations. Understanding gender-specific practices, knowledge and perceptions related to forests and trees as well as associated gender-based constraints in their management is essential to co-develop, with local forest managers, equitable innovations in the management of fruit tree genetic resources.

In September, national research partners in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan havecompleted a set of participatory research activities and interviews in project sites to explore gender-specific forest and fruit-tree-related knowledge, practices and interests.

Semi-structured interviews focused on the state’s role in forest management have been conducted with staff from 20 Forestry Enterprises (national forest management units). In parallel, 390 semi-structured interviews have been held with local men and women who manage fruit trees in their home gardens to understand resource management decisions and sourcing of planting material. The focus was on varieties of apple (Malus spp.), apricot (Prunus armeniaca) and walnut (Juglans regia) grown. Finally, 26 focus group discussions on local fruit tree management practices have been held with forest dwellers in separate women’s and men’s groups. Data are currently being cleaned and translated into English.

Results will provide guidance on how to foster the equitable participation of men and women in the management of fruit tree genetic resources in home gardens and forests. They will also help identify strategies for promoting the use of ‘wild’ (forest-based) fruit and nut tree genetic resources in home gardens; for addressing threats to wild populations of fruit and nut species; and for capturing opportunities for sustainable use and conservation of wild fruit and nut tree populations.

National research partners are :

  • Uzbek Republican Scientific and Production Center of Ornamental Gardening and Forestry
  • Kyrgyz National Agrarian University
  • Institute of Horticulture of Tajik Academy of Agricultural Sciences.

The project is coordinated by Bioversity International with financing from the Government of Luxembourg and with co-funding from the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry.

For more information please contact Marlene Elias at [email protected]


Photo: CIAT
Photo: CIAT

CIAT

Looking at gender in coffee agroforestry in Nicaragua

The research on gender, tree uses, and decision-making patterns among shade coffee producers in Tuma la Dalia, Nicaragua has made some progress.

Research suggests that coffee agroforestry producers in Latin American countries derive significant commercial and subsistence value from the non-coffee products of the agroforestry system, for example, timber, fuelwood, and fruits. However, there is a lack of consideration of gender aspects within the research, for example, how uses derived from the agroforestry system may vary between men and women producers.

The objectives are:

  • Analyze how men and women value and use trees on farms.
  • Understand the role of men and women in the decision-making process on the use and management of trees.

The research results shall support the development of gender-sensitive climate change interventions focused on high value tree crops. CIAT partners with the Fundación para el Desarrollo Tecnológico Agropecuario y Forestal de Nicaragua (FUNICA).

Findings suggest that women perceive more household uses of farm trees than men. Furthermore, women may be more prone to giving more importance than men to fruit trees than those used for timber. Results also demonstrate that although men tend to dominate decision-making processes, women and men both participate in decision-making on harvest sales and how to use income.

For more information please contact Tatiana Gumucio at [email protected]


CIFOR

Photo: Carol J. Pierce Colfer
Photo: Carol J. Pierce Colfer

Gendered dimensions of agricultural land investments

The social and environmental effects of large-scale agricultural investments in forested landscapes have been extensively documented and debated in public and scholarly spheres, compelling a reassessment of investment policies and rural development plans, agrarian reforms, and regulatory safeguards on the part of host governments and the donor community.

While land deals come with promises of economic prosperity, studies suggest that their negative externalities have disproportionately impacted resource-poor groups, including women and landless farmers.

Within the vast literature on large-scale land acquisitions, or “land grabs”, there has been relatively little research systematically documenting mediating factors that affect rural women and men in the process of agribusiness investments or how different outcomes might be realized under more smallholder-inclusive investment models.

This research contributes to CIFOR’s gendered research agenda by examining the ways in which women and men are differently affected by agribusiness expansion into forested landscapes of Tanzania.

How do factors such as tenure regimes, institutional context and norms, market conditions, financial and other types of capital, intra-household relations, or other social practices mediate the ways in which women and men are differentially integrated into investor supply chains?

How are feminine and masculine domains reinforced, restructured, or renegotiated as a result of inclusion or exclusion into different investment modalities?

For more Information please contact Emily Gallagher at [email protected]

Gender Café at previous Global Landscapes Forum. Photo: Neil Palmer/CIAT
Gender Café at previous Global Landscapes Forum. Photo: Neil Palmer/CIAT

Upcoming events: Panel discussion and side events at GLF and COP

Concerns over gender equality and women’s empowerment are increasingly considered in climate change policy at the global level.

There are currently over 50 UNFCCC decisions that support gender integration in climate policy, including the two-year Lima Work Programme on Gender (LWPG). The LWPG was initated at COP20 in Lima 2014 with a two-fold objective: enhancing the gender balance of the UNFCCC negotiations; and achieving gender-responsive climate policy.

However, while there now is a clear global mandate to develop and implement gender-responsive climate policy and action, these commitments are often not evident in national climate policies. For instance, only 40% of the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) submitted to the secretariat before COP21 in Paris made any references to women or gender. In the instances such references were made, they often served to paint a rather generalized picture of women as ‘vulnerable populations’.

The focus of COP22 will be on the implementation of the Paris Agreement: How are the Parties to the Agreement going to deliver on the promises made in Paris? This year’s COP also marks the end of the two-year LWPG. Parties and observer organizations have thus been urged by the UNFCCC Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) to share experiences and views to guide the possible continuation and enhancement of the program.

Given the gap between the global commitments to gender-responsive climate policy and their systematic implementation on a national level, it is of crucial importance to highlight and assess some of the existing attempts to address gender issues in climate policies.

Towards this end, the gender integration team is partnering with a wide range of organizations to bring together a high-level panel at the Global Landscapes Forum 2016 in Marrakesh on Wednesday November 16th. The focus will be on translating these global commitments into national and local actions. Partners are UN Women, UNDP–UNEP Poverty Environment Initiative, Overseas Development Institute (ODI), Global Gender Climate Alliance (GGCA), International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Women’s Environment & Development Organization (WEDO), African Women’s Network for Community Management of Forests (REFACOF).

Together with the same partners, we are also convening a skills share session at the GGCA Innovation Forum on Saturday November 12th, as well as a side-event at the UNFCCC COP22 (green zone) on Monday November 14th.

The above sessions will delve into the national processes of drafting and implementing gender-responsive climate policy. Particularly, the panelists will explore the role of multiple stakeholders – ranging from advocates and practitioners to researchers and donors – in supporting such processes.

The sessions will further investigate if, how and when ‘gender-responsive policies’ actually enhance gender equality and women’s empowerment on the ground. Participants will be invited to share achievements and challenges of drafting and implementing gender-responsive climate policy and action thus far, thereby fostering South–South learning of good practices.

The sessions will also provide an opportunity to deliberate over a minimum set of standards that countries could follow to ensure that commitment towards addressing gender equality are firmly rooted in national climate policy and action and that mechanisms for accountability, monitoring and continuous learning are in place.

 


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