This climate policy research demonstrates that in India’s agriculture-dominated and gender-biased economy, the future of India’s adaptation strategy hinges on how well gender is integrated into agriculture-related policies and programmes. India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change, which lays out India’s strategy for mitigation and adaptation, recognises that women suffer more from climate change impacts than men. However, it fails to recognise that women are also integral to climate solutions. The research concludes with a set of policy recommendations for policy-makers and other actors.
Why Should India Focus on Gender-Responsive Adaptation?
There is growing scientific and anecdotal evidence in India that climate vagaries are affecting the life and work of its people, especially the 72% of its populations that lives off climate-sensitive agriculture and related activities. An overwhelming 60% of India’s agriculture is rain-fed and prone to recurring natural disasters like floods, droughts and cyclones which, according to climate scientists, will become more frequent, intense and unpredictable. These rain fed areas are also home to majority of the poor and marginalised farmers. India’s 11th Five-year Plan (2007-2012) notes the increasing ‘feminisation’ of Indian agriculture and a dominance of women workers in livestock rearing and collection of minor products from forests.
While India is the world’s 5th largest greenhouse gasses emitter and the 6th largest carbon emitter, these constitute just 4% and 3% of the global emissions respectively; also, India’s per capita emissions are 70% below the world’s average. Following a low-carbon growth strategy is important, and India has already embarked upon one, but there is far less policy focus on adaptation. As the Stern Review (2006) notes: ‘adaptation policy is crucial for dealing with the unavoidable impacts of climate but it has been underemphasised in many countries. Adaptation is the only response available for the impacts that will occur over the next several decades before mitigation measures can have an effect.’
Overcoming Gender-specific Disparities
Without an effective adaptation policy, India cannot achieve its Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) or its MDG-based National Development Goals as set out by the Indian Planning Commission. Climate change impacts often threaten to erode or inhibit development gains. Women are typically responsible for providing their household with climate-sensitive resources like water, food crops, fodder and firewood; they are also less likely to have the education, opportunities, authority and productive resources to adapt to climate change impacts. Without gender-specific disparities being addressed by adaptation policies, climate change will add another layer of gender inequality, especially in the farming sector.
The fourth assessment report of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) notes that gender differences affect the vulnerability and adaptive capacity of women and men. After decades of gender-blind climate negotiation texts under the UN Framework on Climate Change Convention (UNFCCC), women and gender concerns were mentioned in the December 2010 Conference of Parties (COP 16) Cancun text.
Understanding Gender-specific Impacts of Climate Change
Using a gender lens, the research (a) analysed adaptation policies and programmes as laid out in the NAPCC and (b) gathered evidence from four disaster-prone rain fed agro-climatic zones in four states (India consists of 28 states and 7 Union Territories) for evidence-based policy recommendations. The four agro-climatic zones were:
- The Himalayan eco-system in Himachal Pradesh (HP).
- The flood plains of Eastern Uttar Pradesh (UP).
- The Sunderbans coastal area in West Bengal (WB).
- The drought region of Andhra Pradesh (AP).
The research objectives were:
- Understanding some of the socio-economic impacts of climate change at the local level where gender-specific disparities are most intense.
- Identifying some of the gender-responsive policy gaps in the national adaptation missions and in specific state-level climate change plans, and suggesting possible corrections.
- Identifying some areas where women and men can both participate in, influence and benefit from scientific work on adaptation
- Assessing how gender-responsive the work of grassroots NGOs working on adaptation is and how this can be up-scaled in a gender-responsive manner by the Central and State government’s climate-related policies and plans.
The research employed a range of tools and techniques. These included:
- Literature Review
- Participatory collection of field-data by four grassroots NGOs, each in one of the above agro-climatic zones.
- Consultations with gender/climate experts
- Policy analysis
- A Delphi exercise
How Women and Men are Impacted Differently by Climate Change
There is little evidence to show the different impacts of climate change on men and women. The need to identify and study these differences is critical for making gender-responsive adaptation policies and programmes.
This research gathered data from the four agro-climatic zones and used a gender lens to show how the same climate change impact affected women and men differently. The research revealed that men’s primary way to adapt was to migrate from farms which meant that women were left behind to both till the unproductive land and to continue their care roles. This put an additional burden on women because they had to till the unproductive land or labour in other fields, while continuing to shoulder their care-giver responsibilities with no support from the spouse. The table below captures this gender difference from the four zones.
|Gendered Impacts of Climate Change|
|Climate Change||Impacts on women||Impacts on Men|
|Lower food production||Least to eat; sleep on an empty stomach
Need to take on additional work as wage labour which also led to more feminisation of agricultural labour (WB, UP, AP)
|They get first priority to available food in the family|
|More natural disasters – cyclones, floods, water-logging and droughts; infrequent rains; intense rains||Longer distances to walk to get water and fuel-wood
Loss of fodder and livestock
Drought/infrequent spells of rains – harder ground to do agricultural work on
Intense rains – more weeds and weeding is a woman’s job
|Higher summer temperatures; longer summers||Lower milk production among animals
More tiring work in fields even in April (HP)
Longer waking hours to work in the field early morning and late evening to beat the heat (AP, HP, UP)
|Lesser tasks in the field.
|Effect on regeneration of species and upward shift of the forest tree-line||Medicinal herbs and fodder unavailable in forests now (HP)||No effect|
|Higher indebtedness – women go to take loans and have the responsibility to pay off loans!
Increased male migration results in more women and child trafficking and HIV/AIDS spread
Greater poverty and frustration among men leads to increase in domestic abuse/violence
Adaptation Interventions Involve Women more but also Affect them Differently
Most grassroots development organisation working on farm-based livelihoods with rural men and women have willy-nilly adopted techniques that help small and marginalised farmers adapt to climate vagaries. Adaptation can be understood to be ‘development-plus;’ or development measures that take into account climate-proofing; or climate change adaptation interventions that help in also achieving development gains. According to a World Resources Institute study (2007), ‘adaptation uses the same toolbox as development measures, is more integrated than development interventions and factors in the dimension of ‘additionality’ on account of climate variability.’
Most NGOs this research study examined have similar approaches to integrating adaptation measures into farming practices. They build on traditional knowledge, adopt a diversified livelihoods basket, and add value through applied scientific and technological interventions. All this is done by first mobilising groups of farmers – both men and women but more women farmers. The reason for making women active players is because NGOs acknowledge that women farmers are more responsive than men farmers and achieve greater success. So women, more than men, are the main mobilizers of peer groups, recipients of knowledge and skills and risk-takers. Yet, these roles are hardly acknowledged by NGOs in documents, meetings and advocacy initiatives.
Working with women also does not usually translate into women owning more productive assets or accessing more government schemes or participating more in government or community-level decision-making bodies. While women do reap some benefits and are also more empowered than earlier in some respects, many adaptive interventions put more time and labour burden on women as compared to men. The table below illustrates a few of the differential impacts of on-the-ground adaptation interventions on men and women and some of the policy gaps that need to be addressed.
|Gender Analysis of Adaptation Interventions|
|Adaptive Interventions||Gender Analysis||Policy & Programme Imperatives|
|Organic/low chemical input agriculture with diversified products||Improved food security for both women and men
Women put in more labour and time to prepare bio-fertilizer and bio-pesticide
Higher fodder and fuel-wood yields for women
Less information/ knowledge/ inputs accessed by women
Less participation in decision-making bodies
|Incentives to promote availability of bio-inputs
Incentives to promote joint farm land titles to spouses and leasing public land to women farmers groups.
Development of women-friendly technology to reduce drudgery
Availability of local weather-related information to women farmers.
|Increased use of traditional saline/ drought/ flood resistant seeds and local livestock varieties||More food security for both women and men
Gives women fodder/ fuel-wood
Enables women to store and exchange seed, not buy from seed markets
Opportunity for women to reclaim traditional knowledge
|Promote farm-to-lab, in addition to the current lab-to-farm approach
Make local varieties available
Popularize seed banks, grain banks and fodder banks
Recruit women and men farmer trainers in extension work
|Rain-water harvesting||Benefits women more because it ensures improved food security and availability of water for livestock and homes||Promote water harvesting structures for kitchen gardens, roof rainwater harvesting and for small farms;
Revive traditional ponds and wells.
Empowerment of Women
Women need to be at the core of planning and implementation of adaptation interventions. This includes collection of gender-disaggregated data at all levels, gender-based monitoring and evaluation and gender-budgeting. The four-C framework given below sums up the main policy recommendations.
- Counting women in at planning, designing, implementing, resourcing and evaluating stages of all programmes and schemes. Currently, there is a huge deficit on gender-disaggregated data for policy making.
- Converging programmes and schemes at the planning and design stage through multi-sectoral and multi-ministerial bodies and at the implementation stage through local government agencies and local elected bodies. A specific need is to mandate gender-responsive ‘Local Action Plans on Adaptation,’ (or LAPAs) integrated with the Village Development Plans made by local elected bodies.
- Capacity building and empowering women and men at the level of local elected bodies, local government agencies, within scientific institutions working on adaptation and within relevant NGOs and community-based organizations. Gender-responsive decision-making institutions are basic building blocks for egalitarian adaptation policies.
- Collaborating with key stakeholders – adaptation science researchers, government agencies and departments, local elected bodies, user groups, civil society groups and legislators – to build resilience among the most vulnerable people through participatory innovation, utilization of traditional and local knowledge, adding value through scientific and technological interventions and converging all resources.
Within this framework, the research identifies policy-level recommendations for specific actors – legislators, government planning bodies, government officers, local elected bodies, adaptation research scientists, civil society organizations and community-based groups.
These policy recommendations form a blueprint of what India’s approach and policies must be in the coming decades to ensure that both men and women are able to reap the benefits of a climate-resilient path to development.
|Authors:||Aditi Kapoor, Alternative Futures email address: firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Sponsors:||Heinrich Böll Foundation, Germany and Christian Aid, U.K.|
|Type:||National foresight and policy advocacy research|
|Organizer:||Alternative Futures (Rakesh Kapoor) email@example.com|
|Duration:||08/2010 – 05/2011||Budget:||20,000 €||Time Horizon:||2030-2050||Date of Brief:||July 2012|
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