Recognizing and respecting the knowledge of rural women and girls is central to building Africa’s climate resilience

October 17, 2019

International Rural Women’s Day 2019

By Bethule Nyamambi and Nompilo Simanje

It is no longer a secret that women are the pivotal actors in agricultural activities, particularly in providing the productive labor force and knowledge that will contribute to building climate resilience in communities. Women are therefore the curators of knowledge on sustainable food systems, seasonality and nutrition. The 2019 theme for the International Rural Women’s Day could not be more relevant, with its focus on fostering climate resilience targeting the most affected – rural women and girls in Africa.  The unpredictable effects of climate change, which ultimately will reduce crop yield, disrupt food availability and access and increase inequality and poverty if not addressed, requires the adoption of a multidisciplinary approach to ensure rural women enjoy full rights and access to technology, skills and inclusive policies to address the evolving effects of climate change.

Recognizing the fact that women are holders of vital knowledge on agriculture practice, food systems and nutrition, TrustAfrica through its Agriculture Advocacy Programme, has taken steps to invest in ensuring the knowledge and voice of women small holder farmers and value chain actors is heard in agriculture and food policy making processes. The programme has worked collaboratively alongside partners and grantees to equip and empower women’s organizations, farmers’ associations and unions in advancing citizen’s position on engendered agriculture policy making processes. Using the domestication of the Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) in several countries across Africa, TrustAfrica has supported interventions to promote women’s participation in community and national agriculture investment planning and that these processes provide equal opportunity and access for rural women. There is no doubt that the achievement of CAADP goals and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is largely dependent on women’s empowerment, especially in their ability to use their knowledge of the local food systems, seeds, the environment, seasons and weather and climate variations. Drawing from our critical contextual analysis and experience in Burkina Faso, Ghana and Nigeria, we identified critical entry points for women to practically and effectively utilize policy dialogue platforms to input their knowledge on their food systems in their localities, as well as in national policy. One such was providing their knowledge on drought mitigation strategies and other climate resilience strategies in community seasonal cropping and marketing planning. We have built the capacity of women’s’ organizations to analyze agriculture policy and national budgets to better advocate for their empowerment in national policy. We therefore also noted that although there are significant policies that recognized the rights of women and their participation in agriculture both at national and state government, there are no clear budget lines that specifically allocate funding for women’s empowerment especially in building climate resilience interventions.

The anchoring contribution of rural women in agricultural and rural development will become central in building climate resilience, achieving food security and nutrition and eradication of rural poverty in the future. Whilst there is a growing knowledge and strategies on climate change and building climate resilience, this knowledge production is dominated by institutions from the global north. This will happen if we

  • Distinguish and respect the specific knowledge and rights of rural women to champion strategies for building climate resilience will contribute to better preparedness and promotion of just and sustainable livelihoods and food sovereignty in Africa.
  • Identifying the ways to use the knowledge and rights of women will further ensure localised control of food systems and interventions to build climate resilience by putting women farmers at the centre of decision-making on food issues, changing production patterns in response to climate variation and localizes sustainable environmental and natural resource management.
  • Acknowledging that women farmers’ understanding of their local food systems and seasons positions them to take their place and equally participate in discussions and decisions and food, nutrition and agriculture policy in African countries.
  • Resourcing the production and packaging of knowledge of rural women and girls who have an experiential grasp of the terrain and context will contribute to building a package of interventions that support and place control of climate resilience building in the hands of women and girls.

Our continued work with rural women and farmers organisations and their movements seeks to help create the political will to advance inclusive, just and equitable policies for women in agriculture. Greater engagement of rural women and girl’s agency in building climate resilience will ensure sustainable and rooted development on the continent. African governments and partner institutions, continental organizations and famers’ associations to intentionally promote the empowerment of rural women and girls to enable them to respond and better adapt to the impacts of climate change and demonstrate that no one is left behind. 

It take action calls on The protection of livelihoods of rural women through agricultural productivity depends on this political will and strategic prioritization by our networks. As we all know, investing in women’s lives is an investment in sustainable development, in human rights, in future generations. Let’s take this opportunity to demonstrate that no one will be left behind in our collective development as communities across Africa.

greater citizen engagement in political and economic governance enables societies to become more stable, more prosperous, and more equitable.

We believe that movement building is a catalyst for lasting socio-economic change. We strive to build a critical mass of informed, networked, and resilient civil society organizations capable of  creating political will and holding governments accountable


Key messages


  • Trust Africa encourages the coming together of different partners and stakeholders to discuss the key considerations, challenges, gaps and development opportunities and map out practical solutions that relate to building climate resilience among rural women and girls.
  • International Day of Rural women first celebrated on the 15th of October 2008, recognises the role of women in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty. 11 years later we continue to celebrate the toil by rural women to improve food access, promote sustainable livelihoods and increase household income.
  • Trust Africa continues to engage women across several African countries on women’s rights and economic empowerment and as we commemorate International Rural Women’s Day we encourage continued initiatives to support rural women in their agricultural production efforts. We urge the recognition of their right to equality especially on the allocation of resources and the provision of sufficient support to access markets for their produce.
  • Rural women have demonstrated strength in the provision of their labour in agricultural production and also their intellectual prowess in fostering rural development. This strength continues to be demonstrated in the face of climate change and its effects to food production. We therefore recognise and celebrate such efforts this year under the theme: Rural women and girls building climate resilience.
  • Celebrating International Rural Women’s Day today calls for introspection of the individual, organisational and corporate efforts made to promote their rights and economic empowerment. We encourage continued analysis of the progress that has been made and also the development of new ideas to tackle the new challenges that rural women continue to face which, as we celebrate today, includes the climate change crisis.
  • Today is a call for action for the inclusion of rural women and girls in policy development that relates to agricultural production, food access and security, rural development and the eradication of poverty.  We call for strategies aimed at empowering them not only as a group of marginalised women but also in the capacity of many, as small holder farmers. #InternationalRuralWomen’sDay

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