A Gender-Smart Path Towards Sustainable Agriculture
This article forms part of a series from contributors to GenderSmart’s Gender and Climate Investment Working Group. For many, Gender and Climate Investing is a new field, but there is already a lot of great work and experience to share. By showcasing powerful examples from across the investment ecosystem, Working Group contributors are using their voices in the lead up to February’s GenderSmart Investing Summit and beyond to highlight the important role a combined gender and climate lens can play in delivering a just, green economy transition. Through this series, we hope to inspire the adoption of this approach across the financial system.
Across the Global South, agriculture is essential to livelihoods for the majority of women at the base of the pyramid (BOP). Modernising agribusiness value chains in climate-smart ways will be a key element in building emerging economies, combating food and income insecurity, and mitigating the impacts of climate change. This modernisation must take a gender-progressive approach, which requires a shift in the investment landscape to better integrate gender, from capitalising women-led companies to ensuring women farmers are empowered across the value chain. Not only are such approaches vital to SDG 5 (Gender Equality), they are directly relevant to climate action and building sustainable economies.
The impact of climate change on agricultural production has been well-documented, from the shifts in average temperatures and rainfall patterns to ozone and mineral concentrations in the atmosphere and soil – but the relationship goes both ways. Agriculture is a significant driver of climate change, with 17% of global greenhouse gases (GHG) emitted directly from agricultural activities and an additional 7%-14% related to land use. Since more than one-quarter of the world’s GHG emissions come from such activities, the improvement and innovation of agribusiness value chains is a powerful and underleveraged ally in the fight against climate change. Improved agricultural processes and business models have the potential to reduce up to 4.6 GtCO2e* (gigatonnes of equivalent carbon dioxide) by 2050, compared with emissions under a business-as-usual base case. Clear pathways have already been identified to decrease total emissions by at least 20% from agriculture, forestry, and land-use changes.
Women are at the sharp end of climate change, not only because they are the hardest hit by its impacts but also because they play a significant role in agricultural production worldwide.
Women are at the sharp end of climate change, not only because they are the hardest hit by its impacts but also because they play a significant role in agricultural production worldwide (particularly in the sector’s most vulnerable segments). This doubles the opportunity to apply gender-sensitive approaches to environmental sustainability. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), women comprise 37% of the rural agricultural workforce globally and 48% in low income countries. Women are most represented in the least well-capitalised parts of the value chain; for example, while women producers generate the majority of Africa’s food supply, they are nearly absent in the leadership of large agro-processors or distributors. Despite their significant representation in the agricultural industry, women face considerable barriers which limit their ability to obtain the same opportunities and make the same gains as men.
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