[Note: This item comes from friend Judi Clark. DLH]
Men and women farmers in Benin are responding differently to climate change
By Grace Villamor
Mar 6 2017
As climate change brings with it increased extreme weather events, one of the pressing issues for Africa’s farmers will be how to address these challenges. One dimension to be factored in is that men and women farmers are responding to the pressures differently. The Conversation Africa’s Samantha Spooner asked Grace Villamor about her research on gender-specific responses by farmers in Benin.
How are extreme weather events affecting farmers in Benin?
Volatile climatic conditions and dwindling natural resources have been cited as the reason for persistent emigration from Benin to other West African countries.
The northern part of Benin, in particular, is highly vulnerable. Floods have become more intense and there have been more droughts as well as erratic rainfall patterns.
The impact of this has been evident. In 2013, the River Niger overflowed its banks and caused massive damage in the areas of Karimama and Malanville. The majority of the population in those areas are farmers and fishermen so families along the river lost crops, livestock and fishing grounds. Approximately 3,000 houses were destroyed, forcing more than 10,000 people to move and find shelter. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the value of crop losses was estimated at $20 million.
Another study conducted in Tanguieta, north-west Benin, found that winds have become increasingly violent and are responsible for the destruction of crops. Farmers also told the researchers that they had suffered delayed rainy seasons and less rain. As a result, the FAO estimated cereal production in northern Benin to have declined by about 5% in 2014 over the previous year’s harvest.
How important is agriculture to Benin and the Beninois?
Benin is predominantly a rural society. About 80% of the country’s 10.9 millionpeople earn a living from agriculture and the sector contributes 40% to the country’s GDP. Most agricultural production is based on subsistence farming and 93% of that goes into food production.
Women play a crucial role in this sector. About 70% of women live in rural areas where they are responsible for 60%–80% of agricultural work. They are more vulnerable to the impact of climate change than men because of their locally defined roles as wives and mothers, while they have limited access to natural resources and little voice in decision making.