FAO Report: Gender-Driven Climate Change Impact on Rural Incomes

Jakarta – A recent report from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has unveiled the disproportionate impact of climate change on rural populations, with a particular focus on the gender disparity in financial losses due to extreme weather events.

Titled “The Unjust Climate,” the study provides alarming evidence that rural women, the impoverished, and the elderly face steeper income losses than their counterparts due to their limited ability to adapt and react to climate-induced heat waves and floods.

The report highlights a disturbing trend in low and middle-income countries (LMICs) where female heads of households in rural areas bear significantly higher financial burdens due to climate stressors. On average, women lose 8 per cent more of their income to heat stress and 3 per cent more to floods than male-headed households. This translates to a per capita income reduction of USD 83 for heat stress and USD 35 for floods, amounting to a total loss of USD 37 billion and USD 16 billion across all LMICs, respectively.

Alarmingly, a mere 1°C rise in average temperatures could result in a 34 per cent more significant total income loss for women than men, exacerbating the already significant agricultural productivity and wage gaps between genders. FAO’s analysis, which covered over 100,000 rural households in 24 LMICs, underscored the nuanced ways in which climate change affects people based on wealth, gender, and age.

The study found that heat stress worsens the income disparity between the poorest rural households and their more affluent neighbours, with the former experiencing a 5 per cent greater loss. Additionally, extreme temperatures have been shown to increase child labour and the unpaid workload on women in these impoverished households.

FAO Director-General QU Dongyu emphasised the critical need for increased financial resources and policy focus on inclusivity and resilience in climate actions, highlighting the inadequacy of current national climate plans and agricultural policies in addressing gender inequalities and climate change concurrently.

The report calls for targeted interventions to enable diverse rural populations to engage in climate-adaptive measures effectively. It points out that climate finance and agricultural policies must be revised to support small-scale producers and empower women and vulnerable groups against climate vulnerabilities.

In light of these findings, the FAO urges the integration of gender-transformative methodologies and inclusive climate actions into its strategies and action plans. By addressing the multifaceted climate vulnerabilities of rural populations and promoting equal access to resources, the FAO aims to achieve better production, nutrition, environment, and life for all, in line with its commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals. (nsh)

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