The gender connection in climate-smart agriculture

Kristi Foster

Livelihood- and climate- focused agricultural practices help farmers to sustainably increase their farm productivity and build resilience to climate change, while contributing to mitigation. But how does this type of farming— commonly known as climate-smart agriculture or CSA—interact with gender in real-life communities?

In a new policy brief, researchers from CARE International, the CGIAR Research Programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) and the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) share their insights on gender. The brief highlights the importance of a flexible learning approach in advancing gender equity goals and improving outcomes for farmers and projects.

The Sustainable Agriculture in a Changing Climate (SACC) project, on which the policy brief is based, has gleaned several important insights into gender and CSA:

  • For both men and women, livelihood benefits such as enhanced incomes, access to credit, and fuelwood are key motivators to adopt sustainable practices.
  • Social norms and intra-household decision-making and bargaining influence participation and benefits from agricultural projects.
  • Achieving greater participation of women in projects needs a focus on social structure, social relations and women’s capacity to make their own decisions and act on them.
  • Providing new spaces for men and women to participate together in decision-making can be more beneficial than working with women and men as separate groups.
  • Non-cash benefits, including improved household communication, new roles and responsibilities for women and improved community relationships, are valued highly by men and women alike.

The SACC project also highlighted just how dynamic and nuanced gender and social differences are within communities, a point echoed in a recent online learning event hosted by the FAO. In his presentation on ‘Gender and agroforestry – ownership of trees in the context of climate change’, David Edmunds of CCAFS said gender dynamics vary depending on farmers’ socioeconomic conditions.

“…you can’t walk into a farm landscape and ask who owns this land and understand everything about the access and use rights… It differs among men and women, wealthy or poor farmers, older and younger people.”

According to Edmunds, breaking down tree tenure into its gendered components is a complex business, with differences spanning tree products, species and spaces, while access and use rights can vary by season or during times of crisis.

Quinn Bernier, lead author of the new policy brief, says that switching to a CSA approach could help increase women’s benefits. “We need to emphasize livelihood benefits and focus on interventions that are beneficial to women. This is crucial, not just for farmers, but for the project as a whole, as it’s these livelihood benefits that encourage and sustain participation in climate-smart practices.”

In moving forward, Bernier and co-authors advocate for a number of changes, including placing more focus on innovation – a central component of adaptive capacity.

“If we can showcase women’s innovations and ensure them equal access and a voice in platforms that encourage the exchange of ideas and experiences – for example project and village management committees – this could translate to significant gains in terms of adaptive capacity,” said Bernier.


Download the Policy Brief Addressing Gender in Climate-Smart Smallholder Agriculture – Quinn Bernier, Phil Franks, Patti Kristjanson, Henry Neufeldt, Agnes Otzelberger and Kristi Foster

The Sustainable Agriculture in a Changing Climate (SACC) Project is a partnership between CARE International, ICRAF and the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).

Online Learning Event:

All information on the online learning event, including recordings and presentations, is available at:

Gender and agroforestry – ownership of trees in the context of climate change – Presentation by David Edmunds, CCAFS

Related Reading:

Making climate-smart agriculture work for the poor