In agriculture, we cannot separate the issues of climate change and gender inequalities. Climate change greatly amplifies gender inequalities. Research reveals that men and women farmers experience the effects of climate change differently. This is why when we talk about climate action, we have to consider looking at it in the perspective of a more inclusive gender lens. By assimilating the unique challenges experienced by the marginalized communities, including women, children, and indigenous peoples, we can cushion the effects of climate change to vulnerable sectors, especially those in the margins of poverty, the farmers and those with intersectional challenges being members of the marginalized communities.
Jocelyn Dawonlay, Impasugong and Sumilao local researcher and corn farmer shares challenges
in the ground at PPSA's AGREE Learning Session.
Our country is very prone to calamities with the agriculture sector predicted to incur P145 billion in losses from the effects of climate change through 2050, threatening the livelihood of many Filipino farmers who are already living in poverty. In 2021, the Philippines ranked no. 1 in the World Risk Index which puts on our face the real and present threat to our daily lives. If we want to prevent this huge loss, we need to act, and we need to act now.
“Every time na merong disasters, farmers are the most impacted because when their crops are destroyed, their livelihoods are totally destroyed,” said Cargill Country Lead for Corporate Responsibility and Sustainable Development Philippines & Vietnam Jennifer Sabianan during our GrowHer Learning Session. (Everytime disasters occur, our farmers are the most affected because when their crops are destroyed, their livelihoods are totally destroyed.)
In the Philippines, corn is considered to be a commodity that is highly susceptible to the threat of climate change since weather changes have shown direct impact in the majority of corn-producing regions. Corn growers endure low productivity because they lack access to resources that will enable them to control damages brought on by erratic and harsh weather conditions. Gender inequality affects women corn farmers who also participate in agricultural activities in that they are less likely to have access to opportunities and resources.
DRIVING THE CONVERSATION
Corn is one of the high value crops in the country and is a very potent source of higher income for farmers. However, it is seen as a highly vulnerable commodity as most areas engaged in corn production are affected by climate change. Corn growers endure low productivity because they lack access to resources that will enable them to damage-proof their yields and income, by erratic and harsh weather conditions.
“We can ride with the tide if agriculture can be financed properly and the private sector here and the government people are the best people to handle the situation,” said Nestle Philippines’ Corporate Affairs Executive Ruth Novales
Women farmers have high levels of participation in the corn value chain, from farming production to marketing, however, cultural and social gender-based norms affect women corn farmers’ ability to maximize their potential to improve their quality of life as they are less likely to have access to opportunities and resources. A report of the Philippine Statistics Authority in 2019 revealed that only 23% of women are employed in the agriculture sector. Women’s labor is often underpaid and undervalued as their work on the farm is often seen as an extension of their domestic responsibilities, frequently putting them at a disadvantage. Interestingly, women’s untapped contribution in the agriculture sector is a missed opportunity to mitigate the impacts of crisis like the CoVID-19 pandemic and the climate hazards.
“We appreciate this research because this is a good baseline for us to get to know more the groundwork, not only on women economic empowerment, but also on climate change adaptation and mitigation,” said Michelle Ruiz, focal person for climate change adaptation of the Philippine Commission on Women.
WOMEN AS POWERFUL ALLIES IN CLIMATE ACTION
Through ASEAN Green Recovery through Equity and Empowerment (AGREE) Project conducted its Gender and Climate Study in Bukidnon and Maguindanao, we've learned the roles that women do in corn farming. It is just so telling that women value a number of production activities such as harvesting, pest control, spraying, pruning and clearing, land maintenance, and transplanting while also doing most of the reproductive tasks that make production possible, remains underrated. The AGREE Project also surfaced that while men do the heavier farm tasks, women have a significant role in most of the value chain activities, especially in land preparation, farm maintenance, and fertilization which are highly potential areas to highlight their role for climate action.
Women farmers of Datu Saudi Ampatuan during the AGREE Workshop.
The Gender and Climate Analysis also learned that the selling price of corn is not always fair to the farmers. Their average net income for a 3-month cycle is at PHP 20,230.00. There is lost opportunity for nature-based actors due to women's migration and lack of labor.
Despite women’s many contributions, there are still limiting factors that prevent them from thriving. We found out that there is a gap between policy and practice which prevents women farmers from getting optimal access to opportunities.
“The support to the farmers has to be from the beginning to end, from land preparation all the way to the growing out, the scheduling when they should fertilize, when they should irrigate, and then the right harvest time,” reflected Sustansiya Co-Founder May Joy Balmaceda-Dela Cruz.
Despite the existing initiatives on the ground such as organic agriculture practices, crop diversification and alternative livelihoods, we are still challenged to find solutions to help women and men overcome gender-based constraints in agricultural value chains.
From the AGREE Project’s engagement sessions with various stakeholders we’ve heard many good examples of government and private sector initiatives in the corn value chain that also invests in enabling farmers to thrive in the sector, while some are infrastructure investments on facilities that directly contributes to climate mitigating actions in the corn value. While these are present, the findings of the Gender and Climate Studies serve as a reference that is moving us to the fact of the imbalance of development progress in the country, in the corn value chain. While much has been done, there is as much that remains to be worked on, by many, for many.
WHAT'S WORKING, WHAT'S NEEDED?
To contribute a solution, PPSA identified the need for a massive information campaign to raise awareness and scale women’s empowerment and inclusion in agricultural value chains through a low carbon economy lens.
And as many experts have been telling, real knowledge transfer is still very much needed at the ground level, not only for the farmers, but also for the enablers on the ground, like governments. In terms of skills and technology, the Gender and Climate study conducted surfaced compelling reasons that for agricultural technology to truly work, equal access is not enough but rather “equitable” access, such as technologies that are friendly to women farmers. Multi-stakeholder investment is needed to make it happen - from the local enablers, and by us, those in the middle of the chain.
Women farmers present an illustration of their dream life.
Tapping existing mechanisms of support is important so we can maximize local solutions that can promote women and address climate change. Thus, the project calls for local engagements to tap government programs on climate action and gender inclusivity to be implemented in every community.
Another way to scale efforts on women’s economic empowerment and climate action is create jobs for women farmers at the local level to give them equitable access to assets and resources to sustain and upscale women farmers' natural farming methods. This remains a huge subject of discussion in all fronts and we hope to continue generating interests and support where every chunk of effort could help.
These are some of the highlights discussed in our GrowHer Learning Session featuring the ASEAN Green Recovery through Equity and Empowerment (AGREE) Project funded by the International Development Research Center and implemented by Grow Asia in Cambodia, Vietnam, and the Philippines, through its country chapters. It aims to contribute a catalog of successful interventions in engaging women in climate action and initiatives that may still be needed to scale women's economic empowerment via low-carbon strategies.
Through the learning session, PPSA engaged members and partners in the corn value chain to share their insights and recommendations for the next phase of the AGREE Project. They also shared their experiences in women empowerment and climate action in their organization’s respective programs.
Jocelyn Dawonlay showing her corn crops in their 14-leaf growth stage.
The AGREE project recognizes the value in investing in women in the corn value chains to drive climate smart actions. Promoting gender equality allows for an effective adaptation in the climate change impacts towards a more sustainable and inclusive agricultural system in the Philippines. The project will also produce case studies, knowledge and learning products, and pilot testing activities to inform policy development and promote livelihood and green job opportunities for women.
“As an enabler of multi-stakeholder partnerships for agricultural development and food systems transformation, we will continue to pursue action-oriented knowledge exchange and bring organizations together to contribute in addressing some of the most pressing issues in Philippine agriculture. Through Grow Asia’s work on women’s economic empowerment, we will continue to implement projects such as AGREE to make more room for women to grow and lead,” said PPSA Country Director Amy Melissa Chua.
AGREE is a research project funded by the International Development Research Centre and implemented by Grow Asia through its country chapters in the Philippines, Cambodia, and Vietnam. It aims to contribute a catalogue of what's working, what’s needed, and how to scale women's economic empowerment via low-carbon strategies—a gap identified by Grow Asia on effectively mainstreaming gender across its network.