22-year old Amani Abdel Rahman is a busy farmer. At her home in Al-Dewier village in upper Egypt’s Assiut governorate, she grows barley, sells it as fodder, and raises poultry. “Now, me and many other girls in our village earn our own money, and do not have to work as labor on farms,” Rahman says.
Since April 2022, Rahman has been a beneficiary of the ‘Climate Smart Agriculture for Life’ project implemented by CARE Egypt with funding from the European Union in the governorates of Assiut and Beni Suef in cooperation with the Local and Agricultural Community Development Association. Before that, Rahman used to engage in periodic agricultural work for a small fee, while juggling her studies as a student of Social Work.
Rahman’s experience is tied in with data documented by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). They found that although women comprise an average of 43 percent of the agricultural labor force in developing countries, less than 20 percent of the world’s landholders are women. In North Africa, the proportion is even fewer with less than 5 percent owning land, according to UNWOMEN.
Working as agricultural labor also makes women vulnerable to a changing climate where increasing droughts impact productivity of crops, reducing women’s daily wages. It also pushes them to do more strenuous tasks to earn their living, or forces them to accept arranged marriages to improve their standard of living and support their families. Empowering women can improve this vulnerability.
Few initiatives have been launched in this direction in Egypt, and the results are promising. One such project is Climate Smart Agriculture for Life, which has helped women agricultural labor to shift towards more diverse and stable sources of income.
Providing Alternatives to Labor
“I began with training my mother and my sisters, before training more women from the neighboring villages to grow barley inside their homes,” adds Rahman. “I also got a non-refundable grant of 10,000 pounds (US$500) from a local association called El Mahrousa to expand my project and market in various governorates of Egypt. I feel happy, proud, and hopeful for tomorrow,” Amani added.
The project provides agricultural devices and equipment like trays, that help small female farmers compost agricultural waste to poultry food. The food helps them rear poultry at home as well as sell the feed in the market. The project therefore takes care of the input costs in growing barley, which then provides the women a monthly return. This method of home farming saves water and reduces emissions that are produced by traditional farming practices.
“We brought professors in the faculties of agriculture to train women, and now we have a team of female trainers who were chosen from among the alert trainees who succeeded in implementation and were eager to teach others.”Wajih Saber, manager of Local and Agricultural Community Development.
“About 2500 women and girls have benefited from this project so far,” Wajih Saber, manager of Local and Agricultural Community Development association told Climate Tracker.
The project brought in professors in the faculties of agriculture to train women. “We give the trainees a monetary incentive of 150 Egyptian pounds (US$7.6) to attend the training and provide a meal. The training does not take more than 3 days, after which each of them starts production. We help in the marketing,” says Saber. This production ranges from producing feed or rearing poultry, which is then sold in the market—1 kilogram of duck costs 35 Egyptian Pounds (US$1.7), and a kilogram of feed fetches a price of 20 Egyptian Pounds (US$1).
The results of empowering women
Amani is one such trainer. Having been selected as a trainer in the project, she gets additionally compensated for her work, other than the steady income she receives through poultry rearing.
“I have a good source of income that enables me to rely on myself and help my family and train more women in climate-smart farming practices to enable them to start their own businesses. People in my town look at me with pride and appreciation,” Amani says. From no fixed wages, Amani receives upto 1500 Egyptian pounds (US$76).
More such initiatives can bring gender at the center of climate adaptation efforts. Another such initiative is the Farmer Field Schools by FAO in Egypt. These schools are spaces for direct observation, discussion, and practical field exercises for climate-smart agriculture. The goal of such schools is to improve farmer livelihoods and recognise the integral role they play in guarding their natural environment.
“We saw that there is a great return and benefit from Farmer Field schools to enhance the role of women and influence their preparation and development of their capabilities, and how this constituted a greater positive factor on the agricultural cycle”, Mohamed Al-Hamdi, senior land and water officer at FAO for the Near East and North Africa told Climate Tracker.
Despite the significant impacts on women, whether in agriculture or other fields, their circumstances are rarely taken into account in the global discussions of adaptation to climate change. High hopes are being placed on November 14, which is when Egypt, the COP27 host country, will be discussing gender and climate change.
High Expectation from Gender day at COP 27
“We hope that day will come out with measures in favor of empowering women to adapt to climate change. This matter has become an urgent necessity for several reasons,” says Dr. Sawsan Al-Awadi, an environmental expert and director of the NAJMA project which trains women in setting up environmentally friendly projects.
“Without rehabilitation and awareness of the surrounding environment and knowing how to deal with resources already becoming scarce, women will not survive in light of climatic disasters,” Al-Awadi added.
“Working towards climate justice also requires delving into these traditions, and setting a fair number of working hours for women, we need to delve into the primitive customs that deprive women farmers of owning their land and setting a fair number of working hours, especially since in those such countries, women also bear the burden of the home and raising children.”Dr. Sawsan Al-Awadi, an environmental expert and director of the NAJMA
On this Gender day at COP 27, several conversations are expected to take place through the gender lens across climate finance, COVID-19, and just transitioning away from coal, amongst others. A session is also dedicated specifically for African women and climate change realities.
Al-Awadi also points towards the need of acknowledging the customs and traditions in Egypt that deprive women from owning land through inheritance in their name, despite a law for it.
“Working towards climate justice also requires delving into these traditions, and setting a fair number of working hours for women, we need to delve into the primitive customs that deprive women farmers of owning their land and setting a fair number of working hours, especially since in those such countries, women also bear the burden of the home and raising children,” Al-Awadi concluded.
“I expect that during Gender Day, the focus will be on the social reasons that put women in front of the cannons in the face of climate change. I also expect that more funding will be allocated to projects that help empower women,” Al-Awadi added. “We also hope to see more funding for projects that empower women and take into account gender in climate adaptation plans.”