Women farmers without phones vulnerable to climate risk
Women smallholders’ limited access to mobile phones and call credits could derail use of climate information services (CIS) for adapting to climate change risks, a study in Ghana suggests.
According to the researchers, although CIS could help smallholders make informed decisions on use of strategies to become resilient to climate change, research on its use and impact among women and men smallholders in Sub-Saharan Africa is limited.
The objective of the study conducted in two districts of Ghana’s Upper West region was to assess the extent to which perceptions of climate change and access to CIS differ among men and women smallholders.
In November 2016, researchers randomly surveyed 900 smallholders, including 51 per cent who accessed climate information through mobile phone voice alerts and text messages delivered by Esoko, an information and communication technology company in Ghana, according to the study published in the journal Climate Change last month (5 July).
The researchers from Ghana and Mali also organised four focused group discussions, with each group having 20 participants and a mix of men and women smallholders to generate comments on perceptions and access to climate information.
“Women’s limited access to farm resources and the telephone device … is a threat to their ability to adapt to climate change risk.”
Robert Zougmoré, CCAFS, Mali
The study found that men and women had similar perceptions about climate change such as increased strong winds, temperatures, drought and flooding.
But according to the findings, those with access to telephones were about 12 times more likely to use CIS compared with those who did not have telephones.
“The higher probability that men will use climate information may be related to their ability to easily access telephone devices,” the researchers note in the paper. “A more significant number of men (about 35 per cent) than women (20 per cent) had access to mobile phones.”
Samuel Partey, study co-author and Mali-based researcher with the Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, tells SciDev.Net that there is a need for exploring various dissemination channels that address the constraints such as lack of credits from the banks, farming tools and seeds experienced by women.
“This will help improve women’s access and use of CIS so that they can play important roles in household climate change adaptation planning,” Partey says.
Robert Zougmoré, a co-author of the study and regional programme leader of CCAFS, Mali, adds, “Women’s limited access to farm resources and the telephone device … is a threat to their ability to adapt to climate change risk.”
Mavis Akuffobea, a research scientist at Ghana’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, agrees with the findings but says that women recognise the threat posed by climate change as a serious problem than men do.
“Government policies addressing climate change should include gender-transformative approaches at all levels to support adaptation options for each unique climate distress event that reduce vulnerability of the different gender groups in times of crisis,” Akuffobea adds.