The University of California describes Climate Justice as the “recognition of the disproportionate impacts of climate change on low-income communities around the world, or the people and places least responsible for the problem.”
My fourth Climate Justice story focuses on Women in Agriculture in rural communities in Dominica.
The rationale for this angle is based on supporting data that indicates that self-employed women, heads of single-headed households, and women farmers are one of the groups severely affected by Climate Change. According to the National Census for Dominica (2011), women represent 48.9% of the population.
This data suggests that a large number of women, especially women living in rural communities who are heavily dependent on agriculture, are exposed to the effects of climate change.
The subsequent call for women to lead the climate mitigation and adaptation movement seems logical as their exclusive knowledge about the impact of climate disasters on their livelihoods can catapult the advocacy and mitigation strategies. However, shouldering this expectation may be overwhelming as women are also expected to handle the additional socio-economic problems and gender inequalities issues which often compound their lives and responses.
The research study “The Gender and Age Inequalities of Disaster Risk”, prepared by UN Women and UNICEF posits that women in Dominica are largely engaged in the informal economy, mostly in subsistence agriculture, which was significantly impacted. The study also claims that women in Dominica “have a lower rate of formal employment (42.2%) compared to men (57.8%), with women more likely to work for no or lower wages.”
In fact, an overwhelming 79.4 % of women farmers reported that they had experienced severe damage and loss to their crops and tools. Interestingly, a UNICEF and UN Women study found minimal damage to root crops, which was the main crop planted by women.
Theresa Joseph is one of the main women farmers on the east coast of Dominica. She lost all her “above ground” crops during Hurricane Maria, however, the root crops were intact and could be harvested post the climate disaster. Joseph speaks of the challenges of being a female farmer and lists farm help as one of her main challenges. For women who depend solely on farming to provide for their families or to subsidize their incomes, the loss of crops can affect their ability to purchase many basic necessities.
Post the passage of Hurricane Maria, the Government of Dominica in collaboration with the World Bank gave grant funding to three thousand, nine hundred and thirty-two (3932) farmers to cushion the impact of the loss of livelihoods.
On June 30, 2020, the World Bank also gave additional support to the farmers of Dominica by injecting $US16.4 Million into the Agricultural Livelihoods, Food Security, and Climate Resilience in Dominica. The Project Development Objective (PDO) of the Agricultural Livelihoods, Food Security, and Climate Resilience in Dominica is to: (i) contribute to restoring agricultural livelihoods and enhancing climate resilience of farmers and fisherfolk affected by Hurricane Maria in Dominica and (ii) provide a response in the event of an eligible crisis o r emergency.
According to the World Bank, US$3.6 million of the total sum is expected to go towards restoring the livelihoods of farmers and fisherfolk affected by Hurricane Maria in 2018. It is important to note that the finances approved for Dominica are interest-free financing from the International Development Association (IDA), however, there is a maturity of 40 years and a grace period of 10 years, meaning that the funds have to be repaid by the Government and People of Dominica.
This is yet another prime example of climate change that can further burden already struggling countries.
Parallel to infrastructure, farming resources, and livelihood support, climate adaptation farming practices must be introduced and reinforced to take a firm step towards climate resilience. One such agricultural adaptation strategy is the Participatory Integrated Climate Services for Agriculture (PICSA) model. This approach is cost-effective and is developed by the University of Readings.
The PISCA model “is a participatory approach for climate services and agricultural extension, which combines historical climate data and forecasts with farmers’ knowledge of what works in their own context. It uses participatory planning methods to help them make informed decisions about their agricultural practices. This model has been taught in multiple countries and implemented in Dominica from 2021 to 2022 through the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Ministry of Agriculture.
Although training for farmers and extension officers was conducted on the PICSA model, similar concepts including the Ministry of Agriculture’s resilience plan will ensure that women farmers plant crops and utilize farming techniques that will have better yields in rainy and dry seasons. This move will improve women farmers’ livelihoods and strengthen their ability to recover post climate disasters.
Without these supporting activities, the huge injections of funds may not be impactful and will subsequently position women farmers in similar pre climate disasters predicaments.
Women in agriculture contribute to food security in the face of climate adaptation thus smart agricultural techniques and training heavily will no doubt influence women’s ability to rebound in minimal time. As Dominica thrives to be the first climate-resilient country in the world, the unequal impact of climate disasters on women’s livelihoods warrants continuous exploration and climate justice reporting.
This story was originally published by Dominica News Online with the support of the Caribbean Climate Justice Journalism Fellowship, which is a joint venture between Climate Tracker and Open Society Foundations.