During our June webinar, our panel of experts discussed climate-smart agriculture issues and opportunities, with a focus on women and girls.

Every day, new information and communication technologies (ICTs) are being introduced to promote climate-smart agriculture, with a goal of helping farmers understand and respond to climate change. These tools can be extremely beneficial — for those who have access to them. On June 24, Amplio brought together experts to discuss delivering climate-smart agriculture to last-mile communities, including strategies and considerations for ensuring that more people, especially women farmers, get access to agriculture training and knowledge.

Climate-smart agriculture barriers

To set the context, Bea Covington, Amplio’s global partnerships director, shared some of the barriers to using ICT apps in last-mile communities, including poverty, illiteracy, and lack of connectivity. Women and girls face more barriers. Safety, security, and socio-cultural gender norms can prevent them from using the internet. In the latest GSMA report, we saw that even when education levels are the same, women are 50% less likely to own a smartphone.

So, how can we bridge the digital divide to help last-mile farmers adapt climate-smart farming practices? In particular, how can we reach and empower women farmers?

Gender-specific interventions

Tawiah Agyarko-Kwarteng (sustainable development consultant) spoke about her experience in the cocoa farming sector. She works with organizations like The Hershey Company to take technical knowledge and turn it into a training curriculum to empower smallholder farmers. Tawiah shared that 60% of the world’s cocoa comes from Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire, and farmers have been working on climate-smart cocoa for the last few years. The effects of climate change are obvious to farmers — including new rainfall patterns, higher temperatures, and droughts. 

Women provide about 50% of the labor for cocoa production and about 80% of the labor for food crop production. However, they’re often excluded from training, access to resources, farmer cooperatives, land ownership, and credit. To make sure the education gets to women in last-mile communities, Tawiah recommends looking at the strategies to share information and designing gender-specific interventions. Communication is key.

Climate financing

Gretchen Greene (environmental and natural resource economist) sees the climate-smart agriculture boom as an exciting opportunity to build resilient communities and ecosystems that lines up with what last-mile communities globally are already doing. She studies how the value of ecosystem benefits can get translated into farm incomes. For example, planting trees can benefit agriculture and the environment at the same time. Trees help to strengthen streambanks, provide shade for crops, and sequester CO2 — spurring the triple bottom line.

She said that climate financing is growing with interest from groups wanting to reduce CO2 and interest from farmers wanting to improve practices for food security, income, and food sovereignty. However, women farmers, including in Native American communities in the U.S., need ways to network, communicate, and share knowledge. Breaking down barriers to connectivity and building community networks are how to get the information to last-mile farmers.

Multi-layered approaches

Revi Sterling (director of USAID’s WomenConnect Challenge) encouraged program leaders to get creative and use a multi-layered approach to share information instead of relying on mobile phones. Because the gender digital divide is so wide, ag-tech apps often do not reach women and girls who need them. She recommends community, which has been tried and proven, and products like the Amplio Talking Book, which doesn’t require connectivity and, like radio, delivers audio content in the local language. She also loves Digital Green.

Revi recommends eight effective practices for digital development, including more use of devices like the Talking Book that are portable, adaptable, and safe for women to use.

Her advice: bring tech to women, don’t expect women to come to the tech.

Bridging the gap in climate-smart agriculture

When you strategically design multi-layered interventions tailored for women and girls, there’s an opportunity for everyone to benefit — last-mile farmers, their communities, the economy, and the environment. To learn more about closing the gender gap in climate-smart agriculture, you can watch the webinar recording here

Jayanna Thompson is a nonprofit writer and communications manager based in Seattle.


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