Men and Women Farmers in Benin Are Responding Differently to Climate Change

Grace Villamor on her research : gender-specific responses by farmers in Benin. VERY INTERESTING

How important is agriculture to Benin and the Beninois?

Benin is predominantly a rural society. About 80% of the country’s 10.9 million people earn a living from agriculture and the sector contributes 40% to the country’s GDP. Most agricultural production is based on subsistence farming and 93% of that goes into food production.

Women play a crucial role in this sector. About 70% of women live in rural areas where they are responsible for 60%-80% of agricultural work. They are more vulnerable to the impact of climate change than men because of their locally defined roles as wives and mothers, while they have limited access to natural resources and little voice in decision making.

Is there a difference between how male and female farmers are coping with extreme changes in weather patterns?

For example, women chose to plant maize and rice to satisfy food consumption whereas men chose cotton for which they receive government subsidies. Women planted things which can be eaten, men planted things that earned them an immediate income. We believe these differences emanate from their specific gender productive and reproductive roles, norms and identity.

In terms of livestock, women view livestock animals (such as goats or cattle) as a source of investment capital to expand their farms. For their part men sell livestock and use the proceeds to emigrate from the area to find work elsewhere, particularly during extreme weather events.

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