Why do some communities fare better during and after climate shocks than others? We know that early warning systems and disaster preparedness decrease the losses of natural disasters, but what other social and economic factors could improve the outcomes?
Climate change is already happening. Extreme weather events causing floods, droughts, cyclonic winds, and heatwaves occur more frequently and more violently than in the past. In Latin America and the Caribbean, climate change increases the costs of doing business and threatens local communities’ energy and water security as well as people’s health.
Women and men adapt differently to the impacts of climate change. Women are more vulnerable to climate risks because they have fewer economic resources, less access to services and information, and less political power than men. This also means that women have fewer means and resources to withstand climate shocks than men through investing in resiliency products, services, training, and technology.
This can change. Along with other development actors, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has been reviewing the effectiveness of its support for efforts by communities and countries to become more climate resilient. It is known that communities where women play a leadership role in early warning systems and reconstruction are better prepared for natural disasters and recover faster from them. Why?
- Women have an ability to effectively mobilize communities in the event of disasters and have a clear understanding of needs and priorities in those situations.
- Women tend to share information related to community well-being, choose less polluting energy sources, and adapt more easily to environmental changes when their family’s survival is at stake.
- Women’s access to critical climate-related information can greatly improve both long and short-term resiliency to climate change. For example, if women had the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20 to 30 percent.
The IDB, through its Proadapt program which is co-financed by the Nordic Development Fund (NDF), has produced a Climate Change and Gender Assessment Toolkit to better integrate a gender perspective in climate change projects. The toolkit guides the planning and implementation of climate resilience and adaptation projects through a step-by-step process that ensures gender integration and improves both the effectiveness and sustainability of the project. By targeting women as agents of change in these projects, the impact can be much greater. In Panama for example, as part of an IDB/Proadapt project seeks to decrease the climate vulnerability of coastal communities depending on artisanal fishery and micro-tourism, it was found that women play a pivotal role and provide essential support at the family business and community level.
“If we had not involved women in these communities from the outset of the project, we would never have achieved the same results. It was clear that by training and informing the women in our community the whole village became better prepared”. Vicente del Cid, project manager at MarViva, Panama.
The following four strategies are important when planning and implementing climate projects to better integrate increase gender balance:
- Diversify women’s productive activities
- Give women the same economic resources as men and productivity will increase exponentially
- Empower women to be change agents for climate resilience activities in the community
- Address general gender inequalities in the community and greater climate resilience will follow.
Photo Credit: CIAT – Flickr