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Climate change and women in agriculture in Nigeria

By George George Idowu

Climate change is a global challenge with particularly acute effects in developing countries, where agriculture is often the backbone of the economy and the primary source of livelihood for a majority of the population.

In Nigeria, the impacts of climate change are increasingly evident, manifesting in unpredictable rainfall patterns, rising temperatures, and extreme weather events such as floods and droughts. These changes have significant repercussions for agriculture, a sector where women play a critical role.

Understanding the intersection of climate change and its impact on women in agriculture is essential for devising effective strategies to mitigate these effects and promote sustainable development.

It has been constantly reiterated that women are pivotal to Nigerian agriculture.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), women constitute about 60-79% of the agricultural labour force in Nigeria, depending on the region.

They are involved in various activities ranging from crop production to livestock rearing and processing of agricultural products.

Despite their substantial contribution, women often have less access to resources such as land, credit, training, and technology compared to their male counterparts. This gender disparity exacerbates the vulnerability of women to the impacts of climate change.

Hence, climate change affects agricultural productivity through altered rainfall patterns, increased frequency of droughts, and extreme weather events.

Women who typically manage smallholder farms and are often responsible for household food security are directly impacted by these changes. Reduced yields can lead to food shortages, increased workload, and financial strain.

With changing climate conditions, water resources become less reliable. Women, who are traditionally tasked with fetching water for household and agricultural use, face longer distances and more time-consuming efforts to secure water. This not only affects their agricultural activities but also their overall well-being and ability to participate in other economic activities.

Similarly, climate change can exacerbate health risks for women. Increased temperatures and prolonged droughts can lead to the proliferation of vector-borne diseases such as malaria.

Additionally, the physical toll of working in extreme weather conditions can lead to heat stress and other health issues.

Women in agriculture often rely on a single income source, which is highly susceptible to climate variability. Crop failures or livestock losses directly impact their income, pushing many into poverty. The lack of access to financial services and credit further limits their ability to recover and invest in adaptive measures.

In order to address the challenges posed by climate change to women in agriculture, it requires a multifaceted approach. They are:

Ensuring women have equal access to land, credit, and agricultural inputs is crucial. Land reforms and financial inclusion policies can empower women to invest in climate-resilient practices and technologies.

Providing training and education on climate-smart agriculture techniques can enhance women’s adaptive capacity. Extension services should be tailored to meet the specific needs of women farmers, including knowledge of sustainable farming practices, water conservation, and soil management.

Introducing affordable and accessible agricultural technologies can help women mitigate the impacts of climate change. This includes drought-resistant crop varieties, efficient irrigation systems, and renewable energy sources for processing and storage.

Developing gender-sensitive climate policies that recognize the unique challenges faced by women in agriculture is essential. This includes integrating gender considerations into national climate action plans and ensuring women’s participation in decision-making processes at all levels.

Strengthening community resilience through cooperative approaches can provide a support system for women. Community seed banks, collective water management systems, and shared access to machinery can enhance productivity and sustainability.

The intersection of climate change and agriculture in Nigeria highlights the urgent need to support women, who are both disproportionately affected and crucial to the sector’s resilience.

By addressing gender disparities and promoting inclusive climate-smart agricultural practices, Nigeria can enhance food security; reduce poverty, and foster sustainable development.

Empowering women in agriculture not only strengthens their adaptive capacity but also contributes to the broader goal of building a more resilient and equitable society in the face of climate change.



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