Research increasingly shows that climate change disproportionately impacts women, and we can see this unfold in agriculture. Mozambique is one of the most susceptible countries to climate change in the world. The growing season has been reduced by approximately two days per year over the past 30 years, and more erratic weather events make crop production unpredictable and exacerbate ongoing agricultural and systemic concerns throughout the country. Without addressing the intersection of climate change and gender inequity in agriculture, the future of farming in Mozambique risks becoming more vulnerable.
Empowering Women While Fighting Climate Change
That is why the Feed the Future Resilient Agricultural Market Activities – Beira Corridor (RAMA-BC) is building resilience among local producers by unlocking opportunities for women to succeed through climate-smart agriculture. RAMA-BC partners with local farmers to make agriculture more resilient and equitable by supporting crop diversity and introducing new practices to help women thrive.
The project helps farmers plant improved varieties of more drought-tolerant crops, like cassava and pigeon pea, to increase food crop production. As heads of households, women traditionally grow food crops to feed their families while men lean toward cash crops to sell. By choosing to grow these new crops, women can decide what they grow, provide for their households, and sell extra for profit.
Another traditionally held practice for women is water collection, which can be a long and dangerous task. RAMA-BC is supporting women to improve soil moisture retention and reduce runoff to allow for water even in times of drought. With water sources more available, women can reduce time spent collecting water and focus on other more fruitful activities.
Because climate change could increase the severity of weeds, RAMA-BC is also introducing women to the minimum tillage technique to reduce weeding, which is yet another task reserved for women. This decreases the long working hours and drudgery in farming, overall lessening the labor burden for women.
Increasing Women’s Decision-Making Power and Access to Finance
Women need to be empowered beyond the agriculture field, which is why RAMA-BC is supporting Village Saving and Loan Associations (VSLAs) that help women be decision makers in all aspects of life.
VSLAs are community-led and managed savings groups of 20 to 30 people that meet regularly to save money, access small loans with interest, and get emergency insurance without interest. Members are paid back at the end of the funding cycle, providing a steady stream of income that can offset hard times due to climate shocks.
In addition to giving members the control to determine how money is saved and invested, VSLAs provide women with a place to invest their money, access finance, and seize business opportunities. This platform can reduce the pressure a woman may feel to give money to her husband and provide a service not offered to women by traditional banks. Most importantly, VSLAs offer women collateral and the opportunity to invest in the community, or themselves, on and off the farm.
There are 51 VSLAs operating as part of RAMA-BC with five leadership positions in each. Women make up 65 percent of the total membership and hold 63 percent of the leadership positions.
There is still a long way to go to combat climate change and address gender inequity in agriculture. By working at the intersection of these two issues, RAMA-BC is helping women protect their future and gain confidence, and a confident woman is an empowered woman.
Nic Dexter is Chief of Party for the Feed the Future Resilient Agricultural Market Activities – Beira Corridor (RAMA-BC) program.