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Women and Girls

Women Smallholders

There is a gender gap in agriculture in low-income countries between the resources and rights available to men who work the land and those available to women who do the same.

On average, women make up 43 percent of the agricultural labor force and produce 60 to 80 percent of food crops in poorer parts of the world. Often unpaid or low-paid laborers, they cultivate field and tree crops, tend livestock, and grow home gardens. Most of them are part of the 475 million smallholder families who operate on less than 5 acres of land.

Women have less access to a range of resources, from land rights and credit to education and technology. Even though they farm as capably and efficiently as men, inequality in assets, inputs, and support means women produce less on the same amount of land. Closing this gender gap can improve the lives of women, their families and communities, while addressing global warming.

If all women smallholders receive equal access to productive resources, their farm yields will rise by 20 to 30 percent; 100 to 150 million people will no longer be hungry. When agricultural plots produce well, there is less pressure to deforest for additional ground, avoiding emissions.

References

percent of the agricultural labor force: FAO. The State of Food and Agriculture: Women in Agriculture. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2011.

percent of food crops: Grow Africa. Smallholder Working Group Briefing Paper—Women Smallholders. Johannesburg: Grow Africa, 2016.

475 million smallholder families: FAO. The State of Food and Agriculture: Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2016.

less access to…resources: Agarwal, Bina. “Food Security, Productivity, and Gender Inequality.” In The Oxford Handbook of Food, Politics, and Society, edited by Ronald J. Herring. Oxford University Press, 2015; FAO, State, 2011; Sellers, Sam. Gender and Climate Change: A Closer Look at Existing Evidence. New York: Global Gender and Climate Alliance, 2016.

[impact of] receiv[ing] equal access: Davies, Ken. “Unlocking the Power of Women Farmers.” The Guardian. June 12, 2014; FAO, State, 2011.

outputs…exceed men’s: Agarwal, “Food.”

percent of landholders [who] are women: Agarwal, “Food”; FAO, State, 2011.

Kindati Lakshmi [on owning land]: Tripathi, Ruchi, et al. What Works for Women: Proven Approaches for Empowering Women Smallholders and Achieving Food Security. Johannesburg: ActionAid, 2012.

Bina Agarwal…[on] measures needed: Agarwal, Bina. “Food Security, Productivity, and Gender Inequality,” The Oxford Handbook of Food, Politics, and Society. Edited by Ronald J. Herring. Oxford University Press, 2015.

cooperatives…share labor, resources, and risk: Tripathi, Ruchi, et al. What Works for Women: Proven Approaches for Empowering Women Smallholders and Achieving Food Security. Johannesburg: ActionAid, 2012.

many smallholders at risk: Nelson, Rebecca, and Richard Coe. “Agroecological Intensification of Smallholder Farming.” In The Oxford Handbook of Food, Politics, and Society, edited by Ronald J. Herring. Oxford University Press, 2015.; Whitehead, Frederika. “Creating a Fertile Future for Smallholder Farmers in Africa.” The Guardian. February 13, 2015.

“building resilience to climate change”: FAO, State, 2016.

population…9.7 billion by 2050: DESA. World Population Prospects: The 2015 Revision, Key Findings and Advance Tables. New York: United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, 2015.

gender equality [and] cereal yields: FAO, State, 2011.

women…reinvest…into education, health, and nutrition: Matsaert, Frank. “Empowering Female Traders in East Africa Will Boost Growth—and Fight Poverty.” The Guardian. December 15, 2015.

Nepal…[impact of] women’s landownership: Allendorf, K. “Do Women’s Land Rights Promote Empowerment and Child Health in Nepal?” World Development 35, no. 11 (2007): 1975-1988.

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Technical Summary

Women Smallholders

Project Drawdown defines women smallholders as: providing resources, financing, and training to women smallholder farmers around the world. This solution replaces the conventional practice of providing most of these resources to male smallholder farmers or large agricultural plantations.

Women smallholder farmers produce much of the world’s food. Yet, they receive only a tiny share of farming resources, from loans to training. Multiple studies have shown that smallholder farms are more productive per hectare than large-scale plantations, and that currently underserved female farmers would be at least as productive as male farmers if provided the same level of resources.

With global population increasing and resource-intensive livestock product consumption on the rise, deforestation pressure from land clearing for agriculture threatens to release vast greenhouse gas emissions. This study calculated the reduced emissions from avoided deforestation and land clearing as a result of productivity gains by women smallholders, once resources like financing and training are made available. The study does not assume what sort of practices are undertaken, but looks solely at the increased yields produced as a result.

Like indigenous peoples' land management, the women smallholders solution demonstrates that human rights and climate change mitigation go hand-in-hand.

Methodology

Total Land Area [1]

The total area for women smallholders is 58 million hectares, based on World Bank country-level data on the average size of smallholdings and country-level data on the percentage of holdings managed by women (FAO, 2011). Current adoption [2] is set at 8.7 million hectares, based on Food and Agriculture Organization figures for women as loan recipients in four African and Asian countries (FAO, 2011).

Adoption Scenarios [3]

Five custom adoption scenarios were built using the data available for the change in the ratio of female cultivators to total female population in India for the years 1981, 1991, 2001, and 2011 (Labour Bureau of India, 2013). Some of the aggressive adoption scenarios include an early adoption (i.e. 70 percent adoption of allocated area by 2030).

Impacts of increased adoption of women smallholders from 2020-2050 were generated based on three growth scenarios, which were assessed in comparison to a Reference Scenario where the solution’s market share was fixed at the current levels.

  • Plausible Scenario: Scenario analysis yields the adoption of 39.8 million hectares under women smallholder management in the conservative Plausible Scenario.
  • Drawdown Scenario: As the total area operated by women smallholders is much lower, and the productivity gain resulting in avoided deforestation is much higher, than conventional male-operated farmlands, an aggressive adoption of 53 million hectares under the management of women smallholders was considered for the Drawdown Scenario.
  • Optimum Scenario: The most aggressive adoption scenario yields the adoption of 58 million hectares under women smallholder management by 2050.

Emissions and Yield Model

Emissions from deforestation are set at 314.5 tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent per hectare, based on 20 data points from 3 sources. Yield gains from women smallholders are set at 25.5 percent, based on 19 data points from 11 sources.

Financial Model

First costs are US$0 per hectare, as there is no cost to the land manager. [4] For all agricultural solutions it is assumed that there is no conventional first cost, as agriculture is already in place on the land. Net profit per hectare is calculated at US$556.28 per year for the solution (calculated from yield increase), compared to US$407.67 per year for the conventional practice (based on meta-analysis of 23 data points from 6 sources).

Integration [5]

Drawdown’s Agro-Ecological Zone model allocates current and projected adoption of solutions to the planet’s forest, grassland, rainfed cropland, and irrigated cropland areas. Adoption of the women smallholders solution is an add-on solution that can be applied to cropland land units that are also implementing another practice.

Results

Total adoption in the Plausible Scenario is 39.8 million hectares in 2050, representing 68.6 percent of the total suitable land. Of this, 31.1 million hectares are adopted from 2020-2050. The emissions impact of this scenario is 2.1 gigatons of carbon dioxide-equivalent reduced by 2050. Net cost is US$0. Net savings is US$87.6 billion. Additional food yield from 2020-2050 is 778.3 million metric tons.

Total adoption in the Drawdown Scenario is 52.9 million hectares in 2050, representing 91.2 percent of the total suitable land. Of this, 44.2 million hectares are adopted from 2020-2050. The impact of this scenario is 2.9 gigatons of carbon dioxide-equivalent by 2050.

Total adoption in the Optimum Scenario is 58.3 million hectares in 2050, representing 100 percent of the total suitable land. Of this, 49.6 million hectares are adopted from 2020-2050. The impact of this scenario is 3.2 gigatons of carbon dioxide-equivalent by 2050.

Discussion

Benchmarks

Climate impact benchmarks for this solution are unavailable. A highly-cited paper reports that agricultural intensification in general (all farm sizes, all genders, worldwide) can reduce emissions by a total of 3.6 gigatons of carbon dioxide-equivalent per year (Burney et al, 2010). This solution found reductions of 2.1-3.2 gigatons of carbon dioxide-equivalent per year.

Limitations

Data on current and projected adoption, financials, and emissions reduction is extremely limited. Additional data would improve this study, should it become available.

Conclusions

Bringing resource access for women smallholders to a level equal to men offers substantial emissions reductions due to avoided deforestation. It also offers co-benefits of human rights and food security. This strategy should be an important component of land-based mitigation efforts.


[1] To learn more about the Total Land Area for the Land Use Sector, click the Sector Summary: Land Use link below.

[2] Current adoption is defined as the amount of functional demand supplied by the solution in the base year of study. This study uses 2014 as the base year due to the availability of global adoption data for all Project Drawdown solutions evaluated.

[3] To learn more about Project Drawdown’s three growth scenarios, click the Scenarios link below. For information on Land Use Sector-specific scenarios, click the Sector Summary: Land Use link.

[4] All monetary values are presented in US2014$.

[5] For more on Project Drawdown’s Land Use integration model, click the Sector Summary: Land Use link below.

Full models and technical reports coming in late 2017.

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