UN warns of climate impact on women-run households, farms in poor nations

GS Paper III

News excerpt:

Recently, the United Nations warned that Women who run farms and rural households in poor countries suffer more from climate change and are discriminated against as they try to adapt to other sources of income in times of crises.

Key highlights of the report:

  • A new report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation, The Unjust Climate, found that female-headed rural households lose on average 8% more of their income during heat waves and 3% more during floods, compared to male-headed households.
    • Above disparity translates into a per capita reduction of USD 83 due to heat stress and USD 35 due to floods coming up to an annual total of USD 37 billion and USD 16 billion respectively in poor countries.
  • Only a few government plans to address climate change and promote adaptation strategies take into account the specific vulnerabilities of rural women and youths.
  • In many poor countries, women are discriminated against in their ability to have rights to land or to make decisions over their work. 
  • When women try to diversify their sources of income as a result of climate crises reducing farm and livestock productivity, they also face discrimination in gaining access to information, financing and technology.
  • Social differences based on locations, wealth, gender and age have a powerful, yet poorly understood, impact on rural peoples' (especially women) vulnerability to the impacts of the climate crisis.
  • The report noted that only few governments actually plan to address climate change and promote adaptation strategies that take into account the specific vulnerabilities of rural women and youths.

Methodology adopted in the report:

  • FAO came up with the statistics by surveying 100,000 rural households across 24 poor and middle-income countries around the world. 
  • FAO then integrated that data with 70 years of precipitation and temperature data.
  • Only 6% of the more than 4,000 proposals contained in the national climate adaptation plans of the countries surveyed, mentioned women.

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO):

  • FAO is the permanent specialized agency of the United Nations, established in October 1945 with the objective of eliminating hunger and improving nutrition and standards of living by increasing agricultural productivity.
  • The FAO coordinates the efforts of governments and technical agencies in programs for developing agriculture, forestry, fisheries, and land and water resources. 

Way forward:

  • Gender-sensitive Policies: Governments and international organizations should develop and implement gender-sensitive policies that recognize and address the specific vulnerabilities of women in rural areas to climate change. 
    • This includes ensuring women have equal access to resources such as land, finance, and technology.
  • Capacity Building: Provide training and capacity building programs for women in rural areas to enhance their skills and knowledge on climate-smart agricultural practices, alternative livelihoods, and disaster risk reduction.
  • Empowerment and Participation: Empower women in rural areas by promoting their active participation in decision-making processes at all levels, including in the design and implementation of climate change adaptation programs.
  • Monitoring and Evaluation: Establish mechanisms to monitor and evaluate the impact of climate change adaptation programs on women in rural areas, and use this information to inform future interventions.


The report highlights the disproportionate impact of climate change on women in rural areas of poor nations, exacerbated by discrimination and lack of inclusion in adaptation strategies. Urgent action is needed to address these vulnerabilities through gender-sensitive policies, capacity building, empowerment, and monitoring mechanisms to ensure the resilience and well-being of women in the face of climate change.


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