Winning women: adoption of climate smart technologies boosts food security and livelihoods Kelah Kaimenyi and Johnson Siamachira

The gender gap in modern crop adoption prevents women from receiving higher crop yields and improving their standards of living, which is detrimental to women’s empowerment in the region, according to a 2014 study published in Food Policy. Traditional gender roles often limit women to a nurturing role, rather than a decision making one, while little access to education, finances and other resources further complicate the situation. Numerous studies on gender disparities regarding modern crop and technology adoption point to men being more welcoming of these than women. This is distressing, considering women make up half the world’s population, and almost half the world’s farming labor force.

The ever widening gap between the population growth rate and availability of food Climate change, coupled with rapid population growth, represent the biggest barriers to food security, particularly in sub-Sahara Africa. Adoption of new agricultural technologies, especially by women, is an effective solution to addressing the growing need for food.

Here, we meet women who have embraced climate smart agricultural technologies, namely conservation agriculture (CA), inter-cropping, and crop diversification.

Climate smart technology: conservation agriculture

Photo: Johnson Siamachira/ CIMMYT

Conservation agriculture (CA) practices based on the principles of minimal soil disturbance, permanent soil cover and crop rotation are helping farmers combat growing environmental challenges by maintaining and boosting yields, while protecting the environment and increasing profits for smallholders globally. When CA practices are coupled with water-use efficient and drought tolerant varieties, the benefits are even greater.

Thanks to CIMMYT efforts, Angeline Odero and 2,000 other farmers in Boro Community in Siaya County, western Kenya, received training in good agricultural practices focusing on the importance of using new technologies for weed free crops and increased yields. Herbicide use has a ripple effect outcome as evidenced by the smallholder farmers' fields - farmers have cleaner crops, experience less drudgery, better productivity, and higher incomes. Photo: Johnson Siamachira/CIMMYT.
On her 2-acre farm in Siaya county, western Kenya, Florence Awiti applies an intercrop system of drought tolerant maize and kidney beans. Not only does this technology help to reduce the emergence of the dreadful parasitic weed, Striga, but it also ensures she and her family enjoy a healthy, balanced meal. With income from selling excess produce, Florence can comfortably pay her children’s school fees, and take care of other household expenses. Photo: Kelah Kaimenyi/ CIMMYT
Following bouts of Striga, and attacks from rodents on her farm, a frustrated Hellen Akinyi gave up on maize farming. The mother of six chose instead to put up a tree nursery, from which she earns an income selling seedlings. An extension officer in Alego sub-county, western Kenya, where Hellen resides, spoke to her and others about climate smart technologies, including intercropping. Like Florence, Hellen has seen a remarkable difference on her farm thanks to this technology – increased yields and reduced emergence of Striga on her farm. Photo: Kelah Kaimenyi/ CIMMYT
Farmers, among other benefits, have realized that maize yields in conservation agriculture (CA) systems involving crop rotations and intercropping with legumes increase yields. The results from the field confirms that CA saves labor, which enables farmers to plant timely, leading to improved profitability. In the photograph, smallholder farmer Lughano Mwangonde a CA adopter in Balaka District in Malawi, in her demonstration plot. Photo: Johnson Siamachira/CIMMYT.

Climate smart technology: planting drought tolerant maize varieties

Photo: Kelah Kaimenyi/ CIMMYT

Planting drought-tolerant (DT) maize varieties has proven to be a sustainable strategy for improving food security. Continuous efforts by CIMMYT through its various projects to promote the benefits of improved varieties will go a long way toward convincing smallholder farmers to adopt them. Besides being the top producers of maize, smallholder farmers are also the hardest hit by climate change and variability. Southern Africa experienced its worst El Niño induced drought in 50 years during the 2015/2016 agricultural season, affecting an estimated 40 million people. Even so, small holder farmers, like 53-year-old Maria Zuru, who grow drought tolerant maize experienced relatively good harvests despite late and erratic rains. When the drought struck in Zambia, Maria harvested almost two tons of maize from her 3-hectare farm, a modest sum but a lot more than she expected to get.

Margaret Chisangano of Chongwe District in Zambia’s Lusaka Province harvested and sold 25 tons of drought tolerant maize from her 7-hectare plot in 2015, from 7.5 tons the previous season. This year, she expects to double her yields. With the extra income, Chisangano can feed her entire family and buy clothes, medicine and school supplies for her grandchildren. Photo: Johnson Siamachira/CIMMYT
Miriam Phiri, a farmer and mother of six, started planting a DT maize variety in 2013 after a fellow farmer recommended it to her. Realizing she was getting a bigger yield from the DT variety than a local one, Miriam continued to plant it. “I grow DT maize variety PAN53 on roughly two hectares of land, and for the last three years my yields have been impressive,” said Phiri. “I was a little anxious about my harvest because of poor rains, but I got the highest yield ever in three years!” Every season Phiri plants 40 kilograms (90 pounds) of PAN 53, from which she harvested 45 50-kg bags in 2013. This was followed by yields of 35, 50 and 70 bags in 2014, 2015 and 2016, respectively. Photo: Rodney Lunduka/ CIMMYT

Climate smart technology: crop diversification

Photo: Johnson Siamachira/CIMMYT
20-year-old Fatima Meque lives in Nhamatanda district, located in Sofala Province, Mozambique. She married young, only managing to finish 8th grade before starting a family. A young wife and mother of one, Fatima has diverse income generating projects to support her husband in taking care of their family. She plants drought tolerant maize on her farm, her biggest income earner, as well as sesame, millet and sorghum. During the off season, she makes and sells cakes at a nearby school, which she says doesn’t give her much money, but keeps it up to avoid being idle. Photo: Aniceto Matias/ CIMMYT

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