Climate change disproportionately affecting incomes of rural women: FAO


Women in rural areas have far higher “economic losses” as a result of climate breakdown than do men in developing nations, and this difference is expected to continue to grow, as per the new report by the UN agency. 

“Every year, female-headed households experience income losses of 8 percent due to heat stress, and 3 percent due to floods, relative to male-headed households in developing countries, said the report “Unjust Climate” released by UN’S Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), measuring the impacts of climate change on rural poor, women and youth.

The difference, taken across the world’s low- and middle-income countries, adds up to about an extra $37bn lost to women from heat stress and $16bn extra from floods each year.

The researchers estimate that a 1° C increase in long-term average temperatures reduces the average income of female-headed households by 34 percent compared to that of male-headed households.

The households headed by older people are found to lose 3 percent of their income due to floods and 6 percent due to heat stress per year, relative to households headed by younger people.

The report shows that the magnitude of the challenge posed by climate change for vulnerable rural people is staggering.

It said in low and middle-income countries floods widen the gap in incomes between poor and non-poor households by more than 4%, amounting to a reduction compared to non-poor households of $18 per capita or $21 billion a year in aggregate across all low and middle-income countries.

The report also called to address these disparities by providing adequate financial support, concerted policy attention, and programmatic actions that are tailored to the needs of diverse and vulnerable rural people.

It estimates that only 1.7 percent of tracked climate financing reached small-scale producers. 

“The global community must do more to tackle the impacts of climate change on rural people and focus resources and policy support on the specific needs of socially and economically marginalized populations” said Maximo Torero Cullen FAO Chief Economist.

He further added that currently, only a small fraction of global climate financing reaches rural people, and even less of these resources provide support for climate adaptation.

The report noted that rural people and their climate vulnerabilities are barely visible in national climate policies.

In the nationally determined contributions (NDCs) and national adaptation plans (NAPs) of the 24 in the countries analysed in this report, only 6 percent of the 4 164 climate actions proposed mention women.

Over the climate finance, the report said of the total tracked climate finance in 2017/18, only 7.5 percent goes towards climate change adaptation and less than 3 percent to agriculture-related investments and only 1.7 percent, amounting to roughly USD 10 billion, reached small-scale producers.

The report suggests that addressing these challenges requires targeted interventions to empower various rural populations to engage in climate-adaptive measures.

The study finds rural people and their climate vulnerabilities are barely visible in national climate plans. In the nationally determined contributions and national adaptation plans of the 24 countries analysed in the report, only 6 percent of the 4,164 climate actions proposed mention women, 2 percent explicitly mention youths, less than 1 percent mention poor people and about 6 percent refer to farmers in rural communities.

Agricultural policies also miss the opportunity to address gender equality and women’s empowerment and intersecting vulnerabilities such as climate change. An analysis of agricultural policies from 68 low- and middle-income countries done by FAO last year showed that about 80 percent of policies did not consider women and climate change.


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