A gendered approach to climate smart agriculture adoption by smallholder farmers in Malawi and Zambia
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The negative impacts of climate change on smallholder agrarian livelihoods in developing countries will be devastating, threatening to negate even the development gains made thus far, while offering opportunities for resilient development. One approach currently taking centre stage in the development sector is promotion of climate-smart agriculture (CSA), which is expected to primarily increase agricultural productivity and build climate resilience for farmers, and where relevant reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, at global and national levels CSA has been widely embraced, except for dissentions from antagonists. However, concerns have arisen on low adoption of CSA technologies by smallholder-farmers. Even more concerning is low adoption by women farmers, given the gender-differentiated impacts of climate change. Unfortunately, current literature on CSA adoption is dominantly informed by econometrics, which has not been able to adequately capture the issues, drivers, challenges and opportunities surrounding CSA decisions made by smallholder-farmers across different genders. Furthermore, existing literature on CSA adoption is marred by a parochial and simplistic understanding of the decision-making context of CSA. Decision making seems to be conceptualised in linear fashion where decisions favouring adoption are likely to be made on basis of the benefits offered by new CSA technologies over conventional practices. Consequently, this limited view on decision-making has not been able to adequately address the CSA adoption enigma, which defies benefits of CSA adoption. Actually, the paradox in CSA adoption could be suggestive of a broader context of decision-making than is usually portrayed by existing literature. Based on the identified gaps in current knowledge this research took on a gendered approach to understand CSA adoption among smallholder-farmers. Given the aim of the study to probe tensions between gender and CSA adoption in disaster-prone smallholder farming regions in Malawi and Zambia, this study was informed by a combination of transformative and pragmatic worldviews. On the basis of these philosophical paradigms, an exploratory-sequential mixed methods study design, with a bias on qualitative findings was conducted. A qualitative bias ensured that the study captured local gender perspectives, contexts and realities, and in all the articles quotes drawn from diverse study participants were captured. The preliminary qualitative phase of the study comprised interviews conducted with key informants and focus group discussants in the two study sites, Chikwawa district in Malawi and Gwembe district in Zambia. The qualitative phase was essential as it established themes that were then quantitatively explored for generalisability through a cross-sectional household survey. A total of 172 individuals participated in the whole study either at the qualitative or quantitative phase. A mixed methods research design was essential for the study to be able to identify where transformative measures were required in building resilience of smallholder-farmers through pragmatic strategies. In order to address the research problem, the study answered five research questions through the four research articles developed during the course of the study. In Article 1, two research questions were answered, which were framed firstly, to establish gender-differentiated profiles of CSA adopters, dis-adopters and non-adopters. Secondly, the article sought to apply a feminist theoretical lens to the gender mainstreaming approaches applied in CSA in relation to observed gender-differentiated farmer profiles. The article established heterogeneity of smallholder-farmers who adopted, dis-adopted or did not adopt CSA, and the profiles were shaped by underlying socio-cultural contexts. In both study sites, largely similar socio-cultural practices and norms influenced resource ownership and access, education, decision-making power, and opportunities to participate in CSA. Application of a gender lens showed dominance of traditional gender mainstreaming approaches in CSA, and the paper introduced a contemporary view by exploring potential contribution of emergent feminist theories such as intersectionality and African feminisms. The paper accentuated the need for an integrated application of both traditional and contemporary gender mainstreaming paradigms. Also, based on the challenges faced mainly by de jure household-heads, the paper recommended that CSA implementation needed to be holistic, bringing together practitioners from different disciplines to address social imbalances driven by patriarchy and women’s subordination. A holistic approach to CSA also required that factors driving CSA adoption, dis-adoption and non-adoption be probed from a technology adoption perspective. Therefore, Article 2 sought to understand gender-differentiated drivers of CSA technology adoption, dis-adoption and non-adoption. A disaster risk reduction (DRR) lens was applied here, on the basis of the interconnectedness of CSA and DRR. The gendered Pressure-and-Release (PAR) model was applied to provide an in-depth assessment of the drivers of CSA technology adoption which were categorised as institutional, social, economic and environmental. Viewing these drivers through the gendered-PAR model established gendered-vulnerability responsible for the gender-differentiated drivers identified in the study. Underlying risk factors and dynamic pressures, as a result of gender inequality were responsible for CSA adoption, dis-adoption and non-adoption decisions made by smallholder-farmers. Establishment of gendered-vulnerability in Article 2, subsequently led to a need to further explore how this shaped farmers’ behaviours and attitudes towards CSA adoption, which was addressed in Article 3. In Article 3 CSA adoption was explored through a socio-psychological theoretical paradigm that sought to understand micro-level decision-making in relation to perceptions, behaviours and attitudes. This approach was necessary so as to establish the role of socio-psychology in shaping resilience-building and adaptation decisions. The article established that gender-differentiated socio-psychological determinants shaped farmers’ decisions to adopt, dis-adopt or not to adopt. Findings from this study showed that CSA adoption strategies needed to have gender-specific strategies to tackle behavioural and attitudinal perspectives that resulted in dis-adoption or non-adoption. At the same time, it was also essential to leverage key determinants that could improve adoption, such as the role of social influencers in driving adoption decisions. The broader context within which CSA adoption across different gender groups occurs was considered, specifically socio-cultural, socio-psychological, gendered-vulnerability and inequality aspects, which magnified the need for normative strategies to improve CSA adoption, especially by de jure women household-heads. Subsequently, Article 4 focused on how gender-specific CSA adoption may be achieved. This article built on the three preceding articles, and empirical data collected. A normative gender-sensitive CSA adoption framework was proposed in the article. The framework was developed from a resilience perspective on the basis of the resilience-building arm of the CSA concept. In view of the fact that climate resilience will likely usher in new or unfamiliar CSA technologies, the framework has two core components of risk-informed decision-making and gender-sensitive technology development and dissemination. These core components are interlinked to the other various components of the framework. The utilitarian value of the framework lies in that it views adoption decision-making from a broader perspective and advocates for a systems approach, inclusive participation, transformation towards gender equality and equity in access to and ownership of resilience capitals. Practical gender-sensitive CSA enablers and strategies need to be in place to ensure collective action that will improve CSA adoption across genders. In taking a gendered approach to CSA adoption by smallholder-farmers this study, through its articles, makes various contributions to literature. Firstly, the thesis contributes to literature in the ‘gender-CSA-DRR’ nexus. Literature that tackles all three concepts simultaneously is scanty despite the dominance of all three on the development agenda in the face of climate change. The research brings a contemporary perspective to gender mainstreaming, specifically through African feminism which is dominantly domiciled within the literary arts. Yet, its consideration in this study proves its potential in tackling gender inequality and inequity within African contexts. The thesis contributes to both CSA and DRR literature paying attention to socio-psychological determinants of decision-making which, while essential, is still in its infancy. Additionally, the resilience arm of CSA has not been adequately explored in literature, hence this thesis in general, and more specifically through the proposed framework makes its contribution. Altogether, such a holistic gendered approach to CSA adoption contributes to nascent literature on equitable resilience at farmer-level in the face of gender-differentiated negative impacts of climate change.