Gender and Climate Change

gender and climate change

Gender and Climate change: Regional Report
by Belynda Petrie

“The trade-offs forced upon people by climate shocks reinforce and perpetuate wider inequalities based on income, gender and other disparities." UNDP, 2007 Climate change and climate variability are no longer simply a future possibility in the domain of scientists. (See also Human well-being and the environment.)

Global warming has become a reality for many people around the world, with clearly observable effects such as the melting of ice-caps, glaciers and polar ice, amongst many others. The IPCC’s 2007 climate change report gives the following climate related impacts for Africa: By 2020, between 75 and 250 million of people are projected to be exposed to increased water stress due to climate change. By 2020, in some countries, yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50%. Agricultural production including access to food, in many African countries is projected to be severely compromised. This would further adversely affect food security and exacerbate malnutrition. By 2080, an increase of 5-8% of arid and semi-arid land in Africa is projected under a range of climate scenarios (TS) (IPCC, 2007).

Sub-Saharan Africa is set to be one of the regions hardest hit by climate change, partly because 96% of its population is dependent on rainfed agriculture (World- Bank, 2008) and partly because of Africa’s poor adaptive capacity, relating to historical backlogs of under-development. Examples are poor access to health services, lack of availability of micro-finance, and under-developed infrastructure and transport systems. The IPCC (2007) states that parts of southern Africa are highly vulnerable to climate variability and change, with the possibility of some river basins becoming more stressed. The report goes on to say: “Food security, already a humanitarian crisis in the region, is likely to be further aggravated by climate variability and change, aggravated by HIV/AIDs, poor governance and poor adaptation. Southward expansion of the transmission zone of malaria may likely occur."

The climate change impacts on poor rural communities, whose incomes are mainly from subsistence agriculture, are not difficult to visualize. Successful adaptation actions are likely to be those that are finely tuned to the immediate needs of individual communities. Local realities and social structures need to be taken into account. In many cases, women and men have separate
roles and different knowledge and a range of different coping strategies.

Although various studies have focused on climate change impacts and adaptation opportunities in Africa, few have focused on the household level and in particular on gender differentiated impacts of climate change. This report, commissioned by Heinrich Böll Stiftung, provides an analysis and summary of the findings of eight case studies carried out in four southern African countries. Furthermore, the report aims to identify various policies, programmes and activities that could address these issues.

Country studies were carried out in Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique and South Africa, with the investigation of two separate communities in each country. Methodologies used were focus group discussions, interviews and life histories with members of the community. The research questions for the country studies were firstly whether women and men in the region are differently impacted by climate change, and if so, in what ways. Other questions were: what are the physiological, political, economic and societal causes for the differences experienced, if any? What are the current coping and adaptation strategies and capacities? How can the capacity of women and men be strengthened to better adapt to climate change and climate variability? The following is a summary of the case studies, carried out for this project. It also includes conclusions and recommendations from the case studies conducted in Botswana, Namibia and Mozambique and South Africa.

The full Gender and Climate Change report plus case studies are here