Harnessing Gender and Social Equality for Resilience in Agrifood Systems


Gender and social inequalities are deeply entrenched within our global agrifood systems. This limits the potential of women—especially those from agriculture-dependent communities—to be empowered and to build social, economic and technological resilience to climate change. Women taking up their rightful roles to co-develop and co-design solutions is essential to successfully transforming agrifood systems in a climate crisis.

Existing evidence shows how structural gender inequalities such as harmful norms, unequal responsibilities and restrictive masculinities (rigid and inflexible notions and expectations) make women vulnerable to shocks and stressors such as climate change, conflict, state fragility and pandemics like COVID-19, and how gender transformative approaches can boost climate resilience among women. Despite significant research, gender equality has yet to become a reality, and critical evidence gaps persist.

For example, sociotechnical innovations targeting climate resilience are not adequately designed or bundled to encourage uptake by women. They are also not scaled at the pace or volume required for system transformation. Social protection systems often fail to address constraints faced by women that prevent resilience to climate change. And agrifood system governance structures—that is, the institutions and mechanisms by which decisions are made, implemented and decision-makers held accountable—often significantly disfavor women, perpetuating their lack of access to the resources and services that support resilience to climate change. More work is needed to address inequality and transform agrifood systems.


This Initiative aims to use impactful gender research to address the four dimensions of gender inequality by applying gender-transformative approaches to address harmful norms, bundling innovations for women’s empowerment, leveraging social protection to increase women’s access to and control over resources, and promoting inclusive governance and policies for increased resilience.


This objective will be achieved through:

  • Gender transformative approaches targeting structures that create social inequalities by reducing normative constraints that limit women’s economic resilience to climate change challenges.
  • Bundled innovations for women’s empowerment as partners and drivers of climate change solutions, based on evidence on the reasons for limited uptake of innovations by women and through decision-support tools to guide the design and implementation of inclusive sociotechnical innovation bundles.
  • Gender-responsive social protection for climate resilience and equality, working alongside stakeholders to test how social protection and complementary programs can support women in mitigating and adapting to effects of climate change and building resilience.
  • Inclusive governance and policies promoting adaptation to climate change and the resilience of women in the agrifood system by increasing women’s voice and agency in, and benefits derived from, climate-related governance.


Proposed 3-year outcomes include:

  1. National agencies, civil society organizations and CGIAR Initiatives in at least two low- and middle-income countries target normative constraints that limit the capacities of women food-system actors to build economic resilience to climate change challenges using gender-transformative approaches.
  2. Learning Labs nested in other CGIAR Initiatives and downstream partners in two low- and middle-income countries together with this Initiative identify and model diverse scenarios for bundling climate-smart technologies to empower women to be partners and drivers of climate change solutions.
  3. Government, NGOs, civil society organizations and/or private sector actors in at least three low- and middle-income countries use learning and guidance from the Initiative to better understand how social innovations, organizational strategies, and government and private-sector policies can effectively increase the voice and agency of women in agrifood system governance, and their resilience to climate change.


Projected impacts and benefits include:


Women, youth and other vulnerable groups become proactive agents of agrifood systems transformation, benefiting from enhanced agency in policy dialogues, greater participation in the co-design of innovations and programs, and a better ability to demand, access and control use of services and technologies, contributing to gender equality, empowerment and greater resilience to climate change for 3.5 million women.


Inclusive take-up of climate-smart food production technologies, gender-responsive social protection to support women’s food access and production, and strategies to increase women’s voice and agency in climate-relevant nutrition and health services remove barriers to equality and elevate women’s vital roles both as entrepreneurs and producers of healthy foods, and as decision-makers and consumers for their own and other household members’ diets and health, benefiting 4.6 million people.


Addressing gendered barriers to emerging from poverty, and offering women opportunities to build resilience to climate change contributes to addressing key drivers of poverty and lack of livelihood opportunities and jobs in the context of climate change in target and focal countries, benefiting 5.6 million people.


Women are empowered beyond accessing and using climate-smart technologies, moving towards designing and driving climate-smart technologies that include social protection and transformative solutions for 3.3 million people. Women are equipped to contribute to the development and implementation of gender-responsive actions, beyond national adaptation plans and nationally determined contributions in the different target countries.


Implementation of tried-and-tested socio-technical innovation bundles, which include digital support, enhanced decision-making, participatory development and application of context-specific strategies, has a positive impact on the status and management of natural resources in target sites, bringing 738,000 hectares under improved management.


How Gender Equality Can Transform Food Systems and Protect Us From Climate Change Disasters

For more details, view a 2-page Initiative summary
View the Initiative proposal


Header photo: Female farmers attending an information meeting on solar pumps in India. Photo by C. de Bode/CGIAR.