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Climate Change, Impact and Adaptation- Gender Perspective in Indian Context

Today, climate change is one of the most serious threats and challenges the world is facing and is manifest in the form of rising temperature, increasing droughts, floods, cyclones, ice melting, sea level rise, changing pattern of rainfall and snowfall etc. Worldwide may studies have shown gender differences in impact of climate change; adaptation and mitigation strategies used by men and women. Indian socioeconomic and traditional settings are different from the rest of the world. Women have poor access to land, financial resources, health, education and extension services. Owing to the patriarchal nature of family, they have less participation in decision making in household and farming. Impact of climate change cannot be isolated from all these social conditions.

Need for understanding impact of climate change on women in agriculture

Close to 84 per cent of all economically active women in India are primarily engaged in agriculture and allied activities. Moreover, about 60 per cent of agricultural operations are exclusively done by women except ploughing. Women are dependent on natural resources like soil, water, forest etc. for earning their livelihood. Climate change has a significant effect on these natural resources, which ultimately affects the people dependent upon them. Climate change affects women not only in farming but in other aspects also like migration, social exploitation, drudgery, stress etc.

Overview of the study done

A study was carried out by by ICAR-National Institute of Agricultural Economics and Policy with the following objectives.

  • To study the gender differences in impact and vulnerability to climate change in agriculture and allied sectors.
  • To identify gender differential adaptive strategies to cope with the impact of climate change in agriculture.
  • To evaluate policies and programs on climate change and suggest suitable policy options/ interventions for farm women.

Study was carried out in three states of India viz. Rajasthan, Odisha and Himachal Pradesh which represents different agro climatic situations.

Summary of findings

It has been found in the study as well as established in literature that women are affected differently by climate change. Assessment of gender differential vulnerability has been done by computing vulnerability index for males and females separately.


On the basis of the results of the of vulnerability index and its components it can be concluded that in Rajasthan, exposure of both men and women to the situation like high temperature, droughts were same. Sensitivity index for females was more in both Barmer and Tonk district inferring thereby that they are more sensitive to these climatic threats. Among mitigation strategies, most male members migrated to other cities for employment, less access to information and physical resources, constraints in fetching water etc. were found to be important factors that contributed to increase in sensitivity of women. In so far, the adaptive capacity of the females was less when compared with the men attributed to low level of literacy, less access to credit in rural settings, lack of (or not use of) toilet facilities and improper nutritious diet. It can be said that in wholesome manner potential impact of climate change (adding sensitivity and exposure) was more on women than men in both districts. All these conditions made women marginally more vulnerable than males. It has been further observed that the impact of climate change on human capital, social capital, financial capital and physical capital is more for women as compared to men. However, the impact on natural capital stands out to be almost the same for both men and women.

Regarding the different strategies to withstand the climate variability, it has been observed that respondents from the selected districts of the state had adopted the strategy of migration of male members due to the absence of less employment opportunities during the climatic hazards, which lead to changing of gender roles and activities. Diversification of agriculture, more borrowing, more work on field, planting drought resistant and short duration varieties of crops, selection of crop/varieties as per market demand, intercropping and crop rotation etc. were some of the other strategies adopted by the respondents

Mitigation strategies involve action taken to eliminate or reduce the long-term risk and hazards of climate change. In Rajasthan, water conservation in the field was the most common mitigation strategy used by the respondents using different structures/tools in the field. Even many companies are using their CSR funds for constructing the structures to conserve the water, and prevent run-off of rainwater.

Himachal Pradesh

In the state of Himachal Pradesh, both men and women were exposed equally to rising temperature, landslides and irregular snowfall; though exposure index score was less as compared to Rajasthan and Odisha. Accordingly, the sensitivity of women was found to be more, but the difference compared to other states was negligible. This is mainly because more participation of women in decision making and more access to information as male members seek jobs outside the village leaving all agricultural activities in the hands of women. Though the adaptive capacity of females from the state was slightly lower than men, it is better than the Rajasthan and Odisha states. The major reason behind the more adaptive capacity of the females of Himachal Pradesh were more education level, diversification of agriculture, availability and use of toilet facilities etc. The true representation of these factors resulted in a more adaptive capacity of the women in Himachal Pradesh as compared to two other states; however, it was slightly less than the male counterparts. Analogous case for potential impact of climate change on both gender was also true when added sensitivity and exposure to it. As study reported women have more bearing effects of climate change on all components of SLA viz. human capital, natural capital, social capital, financial capital and physical capital however the difference was found less apparent in financial capital in Kullu and physical capital in Mandi district, respectively.

In Himachal Pradesh, crop shifting to other parts and resultant decrease in yield was observed in an event of increased temperature. For these farmers had adopted strategies like planting diverse varieties of crops, rotation of crops, use of high yielding seeds and use of indigenous knowledge to control pests and diseases. The most common mitigation strategies adopted in Himachal Pradesh were afforestation, improving quality of livestock feeding, conservation of natural resources like soil and water.


In Odisha state, both men and women were exposed to two vagaries of climate change i.e. cyclone and floods. Though, there was not considerable difference between male and female exposure index in Kendrapara district, in Bhadrak district women were more exposed to climate change events than men, attributed to increased drudgery. Because of these events, migration of male members forced them to work more in the field. The frequent incidences of illness, more borrowing, long distance to reach vehicle station, more dependence upon forest based energy for cooking purposes etc. has made the Sensitivity index of females more in Bhadrak district as compared to male.

Adaptive capacity of females in both districts was significantly lower than men because of improper nutritious diet, no training related adaptation techniques on climate change events, lack of toilet facilities at home, less assistance from local government during climatic events. While adding sensitivity and exposure to climate events the potential impact was more on females than male. Owing to all these factors vulnerability of females was considerably more than men in the state, Vulnerability of women was highest. The visible impact of climate change on all components of SLA viz. human capital, natural capital, social capital, financial capital and physical capital was more on women than men except for natural capital in case of Kendrapara difference was less. Regarding adaptive strategies, changing food habits, income diversification, out migration by makes, receiving subsidized food, planting diverse varieties of crops, crops resistant to floods, intensive land management, traditional methods of storage etc. were the strategies adopted by the respondents to reduce the effect of climatic threats. As far as mitigation is concerned, it has been found that improving the quality of livestock feeding, water conservation, nutrient management etc. mitigation strategies were adopted by the respondents.

Many of the ongoing programs have  bearing on the livelihood of women. They are important to ease the life of women in the era of climate uncertainties. On the one hand, most of the policies fail to acknowledge the role of women though her role has been clearly demarcated, on the other have not paid attention though they have potential to empower women and promote gender parity. Therefore, the comprehensive overhaul of the existing policy is needed to make them more gender sensitive and gender friendly.

Source (to access the full report) : NABARD

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