The World Bank estimates that women farmers make up almost half of the world’s farming population. But these women do more than just farm. They’re caregivers to the land and to their families. They play a critical role in sustaining not only their homes but also the entire food system, especially in developing nations.
And they’re especially vulnerable to the threats posed by climate change.
The Many Dangers of Climate Change
Climate change isn’t just a rise in global temperatures. It impacts the farming industry, of which women make up over 49%.
Climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of extreme weather events. Women farmers often rely on natural rains to provide water for their crops. Droughts can cause years on end of low- or no-yield harvests. And flooding can wipe out a year’s harvest with a single sweep. When their means of earning an income and feeding their families is disrupted by the effects of climate change, women suffer. So do the larger communities whose food systems depend on their farms.
The impact isn’t limited to just one season or year, either. Over the long term, severe weather and natural disasters can ruin fertile growing regions. Changing rainfall patterns and land degradation may not cause sudden and obvious damage, but over time climate change is poised to make it much harder for these farmers to successfully raise crops, feed their families, and distribute food to local systems.
Where Investors Step in to Help
While this all sounds bleak, there is good news. Organizations and funds like the Global Environment Facility’s Least Developed Countries Fund and the United Nations Development Programme are finding ways to support female farmers. Not only do investors provide much-needed cash, but these organizations lead programs that help farmers install solutions to adapt to the challenges posed by climate change.
For example, the Green Climate Fund includes gender considerations in all of their projects. The Green Climate Fund is a public-private fund that assists developing countries as they adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change. A number of other funds and NGOs provide smaller-scale aid, including the UN-led Markets for Change initiative, which supports women food market vendors in Fiji, Vanuatu, and the Solomon Islands.
These funds help strengthen the local food system, too. When individual farmers have access to better agricultural tools and a more diverse base of crops (including increased use of livestock), communities can enjoy more dependable harvests and better access to different food products.
How Women Farmers Prepare for the Future
The impact extends beyond these short-term fixes, as well, with investments going to systems for water storage, reforestation, and solar energy solutions. Programs like Upscaling Community-Based Adaptation in Ethiopia empower local communities to adapt to climate change and remain self-reliant.
Other initiatives aim to create long-term change by teaching women farmers climate-smart farming techniques and setting them up with systems like text-forwarding chains that increase rural communication chains, which are critical as extreme weather events become the norm. Alerts about storms and other potentially dangerous events help people proactively get themselves, their families, their crops and critical farming equipment to shelter and safety.
With the right tools and support, these farmers and communities can hope to thrive in a future that seems certain to include increased challenges stemming from climate change.