Rural women face unique challenges when it comes to climate change. Natural disasters and a changing, unpredictable climate can significantly impact rural women’s workload, like biomass and water collection, and create significant impacts in terms of family nutrition, child care, and education. Although women play an important role in agriculture and natural resource management, they often face greater financial and resources constraints and lower levels of access to information and services than men.
The Women’s Empowerment for Resilience and Adaptation Against Climate Change aims to support women’s equal control over factors of production and participation in the development of sustainable development and climate change adaptation processes. This association of women-led groups collects funds from individual savings, which are then invested in income-generating activities for other local women. Currently, over 1,600 women-led associations have raised $US 2.8 million for these community investments. These activities aim to address climate change mitigation and adaptation and include sustainable land management; agro-forestry; soil conservation practices; the promotion of solar energy for rural domestic lighting, fruit and fish drying; water irrigation technology for dry season agriculture; and the use of energy-efficient stoves.
Altogether, the initiative has supported over 250,000 women, who are now economically independent and have increased access to production resources; this, in turn, has increased the power of their voices. The initiative has aided 218,294 women’s access to clean water and 253,644 women’s ability to earn income from value-chain agricultural production and marketing. Additionally, the effort has helped 1,835 women access solar energy, and assisted 135 women’s groups that collectively earn $US 540,000 from the sale of honey they cultivate in beehives. The associations have also used their collective impact to lobby and advocate for policies on energy, industrial processes, land use, agricultural research, and effective technology transfer. In addition to the social benefits this initiative has created, over 1,800 hectares of wetlands have been conserved, and over 34,000 energy-saving stoves have been installed in thousands of households, reducing deforestation by 8%. Other clean energy technologies have contributed to additional carbon savings.
This initiative is organized by RUCODE, a NGO in Uganda, with additional financial support from UNDEP-GEF, CARE International, Plan International, CORDAID Netherlands, and USAID. These activities and this organizational structure are scalable and replicable in other regions, and could help meet the need for a strong, continued commitment to gender equality at all levels. The success of this initiative can be attributed to effective leadership, strategic planning, and careful risk management by the women involved. Challenges still facing the continued success and scalability of these efforts include the uncertainty of the effects of global climate change and international responses to said effects; the need for more financing and training to support operational activities; ensuring long-term benefits from adaptation and mitigation plans; and ensuring appropriate government support.
Case study written by Allison Khoe, based on correspondence with Menya Muzamiru at RUCODE and by research provided by Friederike Eichhorn and Sander Chan at the German Development Institute (DIE).
Image: Meeting of a village savings and loan association in Uganda. Photo courtesy of the Rural Country Development Organisation (RUCODE).