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Female Farmers Champion Climate-Smart Agriculture

 

Women are an integral part of the agricultural sector in coastal Kenya. They play a key role in food production and food security and are, in many ways, the backbone of rural economies. As such, there’s a huge potential for women to play an important role in ensuring that agricultural practices are climate-smart, sustainable and support conservation efforts.

In rural Kenya, women dominate subsistence agriculture activities and they contribute the lion’s share of the labour required for food production. Their work includes: collecting household fuel, fetching water, digging and weeding, transporting and storing food products, marketing their products, and much more.

Female farmer in Coastal Kenya. Credit: John BettOne of the many female farmers in Coastal Kenya. Credit: John Bett

Challenges

But these hardworking women face many challenges. For example, most of the women in Lamu County don’t have tenure of the land that they farm which puts their livelihoods at risk. Likewise, these women often have limited access to credit to help finance their agricultural activities. Women also have limited access to agricultural extensions services which means that access to much needed education and technical assistance is lacking. We’re also seeing that where there are improvements in technology, these new technologies haven’t necessary been designed with the needs of women in mind.

Market opportunities for agricultural produce are also limited for women because they lack access to market research information. Restricted transport access and poor road quality further limits the ability of many women access the best markets. As such, they are constrained to local markets, where the prices are generally lower than urban markets, and often vulnerable to exploitation by commodity middlemen.

Tree Planting to build resilience. Coastal Kenya. Credit: John BetTree Planting to build resilience. Coastal Kenya. Credit: John Bet

Climate Risks

At the same time, women (and children) are extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate related risks such as droughts, unpredictable rainfall and floods. The agricultural tasks that are traditionally undertaken by women become more uncertain and dangerous as these extreme climatic events increase in frequency. Even though this is the case, women receive less information on climate impacts than men and they have very little voice in decision making processes about related policies.

Climate-Smart

At WWF, we recognise that men and women use natural resources in different ways so it’s important that we engage with both men and women. In my previous blogs, you might have read about the work we’re doing to ensure that agricultural practices are “climate-smart” (agricultural systems that effectively support development and ensure food security in a changing climate). Making sure those efforts reach women is critical!

Bananas are one of the many foods grown in Coastal Kenya. Credit: John BettClimate-smart techniques could keep these bananas growing for years to come. Credit: John Bett

Working with Farmers

At the moment, we’re working with 145 farmers. Of those, 58 are women. Working with the State Department of Agriculture and the County Government, we’re empowering and educating these farmers about climate-smart agricultural practices; in order to tackle food insecurity and improve environmental management. We’re helping to show how agricultural practice that support conservation efforts can also improve productivity and income, as well as resilience to the impacts of climate variability.

Farming practices with the community. Coastal Kenya. Credit: John BettFarming practices with the community. Coastal Kenya. Credit: John Bett

By ensuring that our efforts target women, as well as men, we’re able to ensure that we’re promoting activities which are suitable and relevant for women too. At the same time, we’re helping women to access financial services, that can support their farming activities, by establishing village savings and loans associations. These are local community structures that help members to save and borrow funds.

Champion Female Farmers

Interestingly, in our experience, women are quicker to start applying the knowledge they gain from our interventions. Men, by contrast, often wait until others in the community have proven the viability of suggested approaches. Female farmers in the communities we work with are becoming brilliant champions for some of the strategies that we are promoting; including diversifying crop types, minimising tillage, using mulch, and implementing drip irrigation and other water conservation measures.

Of course, we still need to do more and we’re always looking for new and innovative ways in which we can ensure that our activities reach all members of the communities that we work with.

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