Women bear negative impacts of climate shocks disproportionately

Key messages from five PEP projects in sub-Saharan Africa

  • More state land and support services for women are needed to mitigate the effects of variable rainfall in Burkina Faso
  • Crop diversification provides positive effects for households with women plot managers in Nigeria
  • Agricultural fertilizer subsidies are a step towards improved food security in Cameroon
  • Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) technology provides a potential solution to improve women's productivity in Tanzania
  • Adoption of erosion control strategies could aid in reducing the gender gap in crop productivity in Malawi


Agriculture is the primary source of livelihood for approximately 80% of the population in sub-Saharan Africa.As the impacts of climate change continue to worsen, research by PEP shows that female farmers, in particular, face escalating challenges that exacerbate their vulnerability, compromising their agricultural production and income.

Although women represent at least half of the region’s food producers and are responsible for household energy consumption decisions, they have a much lower ability than men to respond and adapt to climate shocks.

This is due to women’s limited access to or control over agricultural resources such as land and capital; socio-cultural norms that dictate the division of labor between men and women; and limited decision-making power on agricultural strategies.

Without effective climate policies that take women’s unique vulnerabilities into account, it becomes impossible to truly mitigate and adapt to climate shocks. In response to the urgent need for gender-sensitive climate policies in sub-Saharan Africa, Global Affairs Canada (GAC) awarded funding to PEP for a three year research initiative on Climate change in Africa: Impacts and responses for women and girls.

5 countries, 36 researchers, 7 government agencies

Five projects, in Burkina Faso, Tanzania, Malawi, Nigeria and Cameroon, were supported under this initiative with the aim of producing locally generated evidence that informed local and national policymakers to design specific policy interventions for:

  1. Increasing women’s leadership in defining and implementing solutions to mitigate or adapt to climate change effects, and
  2. Mitigating the effects of climate change on gender equality and life chances among children.

View the program page here .



In line with PEP’s belief that evidence produced from an in-country perspective, by empowered and engaged local researchers, results in better policy choices and more sustainable development outcomes, the projects were led by mixed teams of local researchers and government officers. They received training, mentorship and resources to:


Common trends emerging from the projects

There is a clear need for gender- and country-specific climate change policies to address:
  • The ways that climate change impacts men and women farmers differently. 
    Whereas female farmers are more impacted by changes in rainfall patterns and increased drought in Burkina Faso, male farmers are more located in drought-prone areas in Nigeria and thus disproportionately impacted by climate change.
  • Behavioural differences between men and women farmers.
    The studies in Malawi and Nigeria highlight differences between men and women farmers in areas such as the adoption of erosion control technologies and crop diversification.
  • Gender disparities in access to essential resources that disempower women.
    In Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Malawi, inequalities in land tenure and property rights reduce women's agricultural yield and discourage the adoption of climate-smart agricultural practices.
    In Burkina Faso, initiatives promoting equitable land distribution towards women are shown to possibly mitigate their vulnerability to climate change.
    Studies in Cameroon and Tanzania suggest that increasing female farmers’ access to other agricultural resources, such as fertilisers and climate-smart agricultural technologies, could improve their ability to adapt to climate change.


Key Findings and Policy Recommendations

More state land and support services for women to mitigate the effects of variable rainfall in Burkina Faso

The Burkina Faso study recommended policy changes to support Burkinabe women in agriculture that is resilient to climate variability. The Ministry of Agriculture was advised to allocate 70% of state-developed lands to women, up from the current 30%.

Other ministries were urged to bolster women farmers' resilience. The Ministry of Economy was also advised to adjust budgets to address women farmers' climate challenges. The study further identified NGOs and associations as essential in promoting these recommendations for effective government implementation.

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Woman farmer holding tool in Burkina Faso

The positive effects of crop diversification for households with women plot managers in Nigeria

The study on Nigerian households offered valuable policy options to address the impact of climate change on household food security, with a focus on empowering women. The researchers suggested a collaborative approach involving various stakeholders, including government bodies like the National Food Security Council and Women Council, local agriculture offices and institutions, and civil society actors.

Recommended policies included providing training and resources to women, such as cash transfers, input subsidies, and access to land through reforms in the Land Use Act. These interventions would aim to enhance women's productivity and strengthen their resilience in the face of climate shocks.

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Watch this video to learn more about the PEP co-production approach as well as findings from the projects in Burkina Faso and Nigeria

Agricultural fertilizer subsidies - a step towards improved food security in Cameroon?

The Cameroonian study emphasized policy recommendations to counteract climate change's impact on agriculture by reallocating savings from liberalized petroleum prices to subsidize agricultural fertilizers.

The study specifically advocated for increased support to women by ultimately providing fertilizer to them for free (while providing a 50% subsidy for male farmers). Reducing the current subsidies on petroleum products—as per a recommendation from the International Monetary Fund—would allow the government to fund the fertilizer subsidies.

Find out more about this project:


Insights from the field in Cameroon

“My integration into the local context has helped me to connect with local stakeholders. Having been a public servant for more than 16 years, and having contacts in virtually all of the key departments relevant for our study, made it easier for me to connect with officials in those departments. We integrated representatives from two key ministries, namely the Ministry of Economy and Planning and the Ministry of Environment.

The Ministry of Economy and Planning is responsiblefor developing strategic development documents such as the new National Development Strategy 2020-2030 (SND30). We were fortunate to have a team member who was the head of the unit primarily responsible for this, thus making that person the most qualified individual to guide us in aligning our objectives with those of the government, ensuring that our results would inform decision-making and policy formulation.”

- Célestin SIKUBE TAKAMGNO, Team Leader and Researcher on the Cameroon project


Participants at a national policy conference held in Malawi
Participants at the national policy conference held by a team of local PEP researchers to share their recommendations for boosting agricultural productivity and resilience in Malawi's climate-vulnerable regions

Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) technology- a potential solution to improve women's productivity in Tanzania

The Tanzanian study noted that adopting climate-smart agriculture (CSA) technology can potentially improve women's productivity and welfare in Tanzania amid climate change. The research thus suggested the need to promote gender-sensitive policies, whichwould ensure that women have access to these technologies. For example, researchers highlighted that policies targeted at offering women skills training programs and reviving the Tanzanian National Voucher Inputs Scheme (NVIS) should be encouraged.

Find out more about this project:

Insights from the field in Tanzania

“Being familiar with the cultural norms, language, and local dynamics enabled me to engage with community members and key stakeholders respectfully and in a culturally sensitive manner. For example, when designing an intervention that provides cash transfers to empower women, understanding the local context enabled me to tailor the intervention for maximum impact on women. In many African contexts, it is common for men or husbands to have control over financial resources. Therefore, any cash transferred to women may not achieve the intended effects if this power dynamic is not taken into account.”

- Jaah MKUPETE, Local Researcher on the Tanzania project


Presentation at the Malawi national policy conference
The Malawi research team presents their findings to policy stakeholders, advisors, academics, and representatives from civil society and the private sector at their National Policy Conference.

Adoption of erosion control strategies could aid in reducing the gender gap in crop productivity in Malawi

The study conducted in Malawi brought attention to the importance of addressing gender disparities in agriculture, thus recognizing the influence of gender in the adoption of soil erosion control methods, and acknowledging the impact of drought on crop yield. The research suggested that implementing policies that support gender equality in agriculture, such as providing equal opportunities for both men and women and increasing women's access to productive resources, could aid in reducing the gender gap in crop productivity.

Findings also highlighted the need to leverage Malawi's Land Resources Conservation Department (LRCD) to improve the monitoring of soil loss and the use of environmental resources in the country. Further evidence encouraged the adoption of erosion control strategies to help minimize the effects of drought on crop yield at large.

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Facilitating Country-level Engagement through National Policy Conferences 

194 policy stakeholders & advisors, academics, and representatives of civil society and the private sector attended the national policy conferences supported under this initiative

As part of the PEP approach to support policy-engaged research, as well as to facilitate effective dissemination and policy influence at the national level, PEP provided financial and logistical support for the researchers in the Climate Change in sub-Saharan Africa initiative to organize policy conferences in all five countries. Through these events, researchers directly communicated and discussed their findings as well as policy recommendations with an audience of policymakers, advisors and other relevant stakeholders, thus aiding the process of policy uptake of the evidence.

Read more here about the national policy conferences held in Malawi, Burkina Faso, Tanzania, Nigeria and Cameroon.

Country Key stakeholders engaged through the National Policy Conference 
Burkina Faso The Ministry of Solidarity, Humanitarian Action, National Reconciliation, Gender and the Family (MSARNGF), the Directorate General for the Promotion of the Rural Economy, the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Resources and Fisheries and the Directorate General of the Economy and Planning (DGEP)
Cameroon The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Ministry of Economy, Planning and Land Planning, the Ministry of Environment, Nature Protection and Sustainable Development, the Ministry of Public Health, the National Observatory on Climate Change, the National Institute of Statistics and a representative of the European Union Delegation
Malawi The Ministry of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare, the Ministry of Information and Digitalization and The Ministry of Economic Planning and Development
Nigeria The Federal Ministry of Agriculture, the National Biotechnology Development Agency, the Lower Niger River Basin Development Authority, as well as experts from the World Bank and Alon Green Recycling
Tanzania The Ministry of Agriculture, the Tanzania Chamber of Commerce Industry & Agriculture, and experts from the Ministry of Investment, Industry and Trade


We invite you to visit PEP’s programs page to explore the other work it is doing to support high-quality, policy-engaged research in the Global South on areas such as renewable energy, health care, youth employment and many more.


Supported by

Logo: Global Affairs Canada

Awarded as part of the Environmental Economics for Inclusive Development Policy Project under the International Assistance Research and Knowledge Facility hosted by the International Assistance Knowledge Division of Global Affairs Canada.


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European Union
Fonds d'innovation pour le Développement
Global Education Analytics Institute