Livestock and Gender Research Lacks Climate Crisis Context
Published research on the intersection of gender, climate change and livestock production in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC) is scarce. Some studies may address two of these issues, but hardly any address all three; therefore, the book has not yet been written about these increasingly important and intertwined realities. Hopefully, shining a light on this research gap may inspire new studies.
One journal article, published in June 2022, provides a review on Climate Change and Gender in Africa and livestock rearing. It recognizes that most of the 1.1 billion people employed in livestock-related vocations are women. It also shows how women in Africa tend to suffer more than men from a changing climate and that future disruptions may “exacerbate gendered vulnerabilities and compound intersecting forms of discrimination against women.” It asks researchers to incorporate more gender-disaggregated data in order to support interventions for female farmers.
Livestock Feed and Gender
Livestock, especially cattle, sheep and goats, fed on poor-quality natural pasture grasses and crop residues emit larger amounts of enteric methane than those fed on better-quality feeds. Farmers who improve livestock feeding by using drought-resistant, improved forage crops may enjoy a “triple-win” of harvesting a good crop during droughts and reducing the intensity of methane emissions while increasing livestock productivity and benefits.
In 2021, our Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Livestock Systems published a journal article that considered livestock feed issues through the lens of gender. It showed that women are highly involved in cropping and are more likely than men to prepare feeds and feed livestock in many LMICs. However, traditional gender roles may limit the progress of improving livestock productivity through better feed and feeding.
Challenges of Interventions
Providing new technologies to smallholder farmers in LMICs is not a straightforward solution. In Tanzania, for example, the introduction of a forage chopper did not reach its intended goal of reducing labor among women. Also, women often lack the power to make decisions about integrating new technologies or tasks, such as improved livestock feeding strategies, into their household roles; in fact, some of these new tasks can make their workload become untenable.
In contrast, a successful intervention in Kenya involved the introduction of a hardy Brachiaria grass, which is an improved, higher-quality forage as a dairy cattle feed. During the dry season, the women who had adopted the grass had much lower workloads than those who did not adopt it. Plus, the adopters experienced up to 40 percent greater production of milk, which is likely to contribute to having resulted in fewer methane emissions by the cows.
Seeking More Research
More research is needed on the many aspects of livestock rearing in LMIC that are affected by gender roles and climate change. Connecting the dots between these topics is a timely challenge.
Relevant data may become more available if more research and development projects are required to collect and analyze information related to gender and to climate change. Our Innovation Lab, as well as our main implementing partner, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), are working toward expanding the knowledge base in this area. For the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) in Egypt, ILRI published an extensive campaign that provides useful insights based on the available evidence, but more needs to be done. Also at COP27, our director moderated a panel on Livestock Transitions: Global Options and Local Realities for Adaptation and Mitigation.
This work continues. You are encouraged to share resources here in the comment section, or to email them to our Innovation Lab at [email protected].
Awiti, A.O. 2022. “Climate Change and Gender in Africa: A Review of Impact and Gender-Responsive Solutions.” Frontiers in Climate 4. https://doi.org/10.3389/fclim.2022.895950.
Harris-Coble, L., M. Balehegn, A.T. Adesogan and K. Colverson. 2022. “Gender and Livestock Feed Research in Developing Countries: A Review.” Agronomy Journal 114 (1): 259–276. https://doi.org/10.1002/agj2.20875.
Maina, K.W., C.N. Ritho, B.A. Lukuyu and E.J.O. Rao. 2020. “Socio-Economic Determinants and Impact of Adopting Climate-Smart Brachiaria Grass Among Dairy Farmers in Eastern and Western Regions of Kenya.” Heliyon 6 (6). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.heliyon.2020.e04335.
Gender and Youth. Cross-Cutting Theme, Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Livestock Systems website.
ILRI at COP 27 website.
Meeting the Challenge of Reducing Enteric CH4 Emissions from Sub-Saharan Africa. Website for the workshop at the Greenhouse Gas and Animal Agriculture 2022 Conference in Orlando, Florida.