Climate change is contributing to the ‘feminization’ of agriculture in Nepal, as falling farm yields continue to force large numbers of men to leave the countryside in search of work, the Women, Water and Leadership workshop in Manila, The Philippines, will hear today.

Photo: Neil Palmer / CCAFS
Photo: Neil Palmer / CCAFS


Fraser Sugden of the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) will tell participants that the growing number of female-headed households in Nepal requires a major rethink of how public institutions and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) work with farming communities to tackle poverty.

“Women are increasingly making decisions about agriculture that were traditionally the responsibility of men,” said Sugden. “But they often have no formal entitlement to land or access to finance, and little or no say in how farm resources are managed. This means that they have little power to put their decisions into practice.

“If we’re going to address poverty, adapt to climate change and protect food production, this urgently needs to change.”

Unpredictable rainfall, extended dry spells, colder winters and more frequent floods, droughts and landslides are already disrupting food production in Nepal, where three-quarters of the population are subsistence farmers. In 2012, in parts of the fertile Terai plain, rice yields slumped by 75% because of late rains, and two-thirds of wheat crops were lost due to unseasonal spring storms. The rising cost of living and poor terms of trade for agriculture are also driving the migration of the estimated four million Nepali men who leave the country each year to work.

One of the most promising options for adapting to climate change – highlighted by IWMI scientists – is to invest in dry-season farming. But limited water supplies, the high cost of pumping groundwater and poor irrigation systems are major hurdles that currently limit food production to the rainy season for the vast majority of smallholder farmers.

“Investing in dry-season agriculture is a major undertaking, even under normal circumstances,” continued Sugden. “But now we also have to ensure that women are empowered to manage farms, so that they can take decisions about what to plant and when to plant it, and so that we don’t thwart one of the most promising options they have for adapting to climate change.”

Fraser’s presentation: Feminisation of agriculture, out-migration and new gender roles: an imperative to change conventional engagements with women water users will be available online shortly.


From the shallows to the deep: Who is taking the lead?

Women, Water and Leadership: A workshop for Asia and the Pacific

Manila, Philippines, February 13-14, 2014


This regional workshop is sponsored by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) Water and Gender Equity Communities of Practice and co-organized with IWMI. It will provide informative and innovative discussion on female leadership within the water sector, and provide a platform for different parties to interact. It will also explore and discuss how the water sector can better harness the talents of women to become leaders at all levels of the water sector and contribute to water security. Discussions will cover specific problems and constraints facing women to striving to take up leadership roles in water security and the possible solutions to overcome the challenges.

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