The role of women in agriculture is undeniable, particularly in Kenya, where they constitute 65 percent of the agricultural labor force. Despite being the primary producers, women face severe challenges resulting from the adverse effects of climate change. In the Agroecology: Ecosystem-Based Adaptation in Agriculture discussion at the COP26 side event, the Executive Chairlady of the Association of Women in Agriculture, Kenya,Judy Matu highlighted the urgent need to empower women farmers and promote climate resilient agricultural approaches. Her insights shed light on the importance of collaboration, capacity building, and policy interventions in tackling the climate crisis while advancing gender equality in the agricultural sector.
Empowering Women Farmers to Tackle Climate Change
Judy Matu began by acknowledging and emphasizing the significance of sharing insights from the implementation level. Working directly with farmers, especially women, she stressed the need to equip them with knowledge and build their capacity to adopt climate resilient agricultural practices. In Kenya, where women comprise the majority of agricultural labor, empowering them is crucial to reversing the adverse effects of climate change.
Addressing the Capacity Gap
To effectively empower women farmers, it is vital to recognize their diverse educational backgrounds. Many women are semi-literate or illiterate, necessitating capacity building initiatives at the grassroots level. Judy emphasized the importance of integrating climate resilient agricultural approaches into conversations on restoration, conservation, and conversation, especially within local communities. By catering to the needs of these farmers, we can ensure their active participation in climate change mitigation efforts.
Government Commitments and Existing Programs
The Kenyan government has already initiated several programs, such as the Kenya Climate Smart Agriculture Program, to address the climate crisis in specific regions. However, these efforts have only scratched the surface, considering the recent declaration of severe drought as a national disaster. She highlighted the additional burdens faced by women farmers, who already bear the responsibility of care-giving in their households. The commitment of the government and development partners is commendable, but more comprehensive measures are necessary to mitigate the climate crisis’s impact on rural livelihoods.
Promoting Economic Empowerment through Climate Smart Agriculture
She proudly mentioned AWAK’s involvement in the UN Women and FAO Women Economic Empowerment through Climate Smart Agriculture program. This three-year initiative, supported in arid and semi-arid regions, aims to address climate-related challenges that hinder women’s economic advancements. By focusing on climate smart agriculture, agroforestry, soil health, and conservation and restoration practices, the program positively impacts crop yield, livestock health, food security, and economic empowerment for smallholder rural livelihoods.
Fostering Partnerships and Collaboration
Recognizing the importance of collaboration, she emphasized the need for deliberate and intentional partnerships, collaboration, and alliances. Land restoration and climate action require the combined efforts of policymakers, academia, researchers, direct implementers, and the development community. Siloed approaches are insufficient, and fostering partnerships can lead to effective agroecological practices. By coming together, sharing knowledge, and supporting one another, stakeholders can work towards achieving net-zero emissions.
Taking Action Now
To address the pressing climate crisis, Judy called for immediate action. She proposed the development of action plans and encouraged international exchanges, inviting attendees to visit Kenya and witness the Association of Women in Agriculture’s initiatives firsthand. Learning from each other’s experiences and providing support can strengthen global efforts to mitigate climate change and empower women farmers.