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Home > Publication > The Climate Conundrum: Helping women farmers adapt to local climate variability

The Climate Conundrum: Helping women farmers adapt to local climate variability

Policy Brief

India’s National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA) aims to take India on a path of food security in the wake of climate change. One of the eight Missions set up under the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC), the NMSA focus is on rainfed agriculture where majority of India’s farmers live and practice labour-intensive sustenance farming. What will be the impact of adaptive interventions 

proposed by the NMSA on our farmers, majority of who are small and marginal? Will the NMSA interventions be gender-responsive, especially when female agricultural labour is on the rise? What must the NMSA operational guidelines, issued in February 2014, include to ensure gender-responsive and locally resilient agriculture?

This study examines organic farming practices, similar to integrated farming proposed by the NMSA, in 3 vulnerable agro-climatic zones to understand its resilience and impacts on gender roles. The 3 zones are (a) the flood-prone plains of Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh; (b) cyclone-prone Sunderbans in West Bengal; and (c) the arid zone of Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh.
Quantitative and qualitative research findings suggest:

•    Women work harder on adaptive farms than on conventional ones.

•    Factoring in local variability, especially with regard to rainfall, is necessary for sound adaptation and to address gender-based farm activities.  

•    Organic agriculture is more adaptive than conventional agriculture and also yields higher net incomes.

•    Nurturing farmers’ institutions, including farm women groups, help farmers adapt better.
This study is part of a larger evidence-based policy research by Alternative Futures on ‘Gender and State Climate Change Action Plans’ that explores how key on-the-ground adaptation measures impact women in agriculture and where women stand vis-à-vis sustainable agriculture-related policies, including public provisioning.