Governments, donors failing women farmers in climate change fight

An Oxfam analysis of policies and public investments in six countries shows that women farmers are not getting the resources they need to feed their families and communities and adapt to climate change.

This exposes a sham in the rhetoric and commitments by countries and donors to shore up the agricultural sector and to focus support on women farmers.  

The findings come in year of rising hunger, fueled by conflicts and super-charged weather events. A brutal drought in East Africa pushed millions to the brink of famine; several Category Five hurricanes slammed into the Caribbean and the United States; flooding in South Asia killed more than a thousand people.

Oxfam looked at agricultural policies and public investments in Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Tanzania and found two major problems. First, very little money is going to support small-scale farmers and helping them become more resilient to climate change. Second, it’s almost impossible to know how much is really reaching women farmers, a group especially threatened by climate change.

“Climate change is not some far-off threat; it’s here now and putting lives in danger,” said Rashmi Mistry, the head of Oxfam’s GROW campaign. “Governments are breaking their promises to give more resources to farmers. Women on the front lines of climate change can’t continue to struggle on while waiting for money to trickle down to them. Investing directly in women farmers not only helps them and their families, it bolsters the food security for entire communities.”   

Oxfam is calling on donor governments to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement and step up their funding aimed at helping communities adapt to climate change. Developing countries must increase funding specifically for women farmers. African countries must also honor the Maputo Declaration that commits 10 percent of all government spending to go on agriculture development.

These commitments offer huge benefits. Discriminatory attitudes and policies mean women farmers produce about 20 to 30 percent less than men – closing this gap would lift millions out of hunger and poverty.

The countries investigated by Oxfam are all struggling to get enough climate adaptation funding. In Pakistan, just 26 percent of the $1.17 billion in climate finance they received in 2014 went to adaptation. Worse still, as of this May, Nigeria has received only $15 million for adaptation—a sliver of what others have had. As of last year, multilateral adaptation funding for small-scale farmers totaled just $345 million, far short of the many billions that estimates show developing countries will need.

To make matters worse, Oxfam found that governments do almost nothing to make sure women farmers benefit from these insufficient amounts of climate and agriculture funding. For example, in Nigeria, climate adaptation policies simply “encourage” women to participate in initiatives, but go no further.

These policies do little to support the specific needs of women farmers, like improving their access to land, credit, technical training, seeds, amongst others.

“Poverty discriminates against women, and it is policies and attitudes of countries such as these that reveal why that happens. If governments don’t adopt policies that clearly target women farmers, then they’ll be forgotten and left at the mercy of climate disasters they did nothing to cause.

“We assume our governments are also worried about worsening global hunger and the inequality and poverty that drives it. But the kind of mealy-mouthed, underfunded policies that Oxfam has investigated will only make people begin to seriously doubt it,” said Mistry. 

Contact information

Simon Hernandez-Arthur in Washington, simon.hernandezarthur@oxfam.org, +1 (585) 503 4568, @SimonHernandez

For updates, please follow @Oxfam.