Gender and Climate Change Adaptation in Agrarian Settings: Current Thinking, New Directions, and Research Frontiers



The impacts of climate variability and change impinge upon different lives and livelihoods within agrarian populations in complex ways. While academic, donor, and implementer efforts to understand and act on this complexity have been profoundly influenced by gender analysis, most contemporary analyses are predicated on a construction of gender as binary (men versus women). This approach runs contrary to current understandings of gender and identity in the wider social science literature, which treats gender as a social categorization that takes meaning from its intersection with other identities, roles, and responsibilities. An emerging adaptation literature takes on this intersectional approach to gender, making conceptual, methodological, and empirical arguments against assessing the vulnerability of agrarian populations to the impacts of climate variability and change through binary gender categories. This literature argues that binary approaches are likely to overlook the specific challenges facing significant portions of any agrarian population, and therefore can result in maladaptive interventions that enhance, instead of ameliorate, the vulnerability of the most marginal and vulnerable. Though this emerging literature makes a compelling case for change, efforts to convince the academic and implementation communities focused on agrarian adaptation to adopt intersectional gender analyses point to two broad research frontiers. First, convincing these communities of the value of this shift will require an expanded, rigorous empirical base of evidence for who is overlooked by binary gender analysis relative to intersectional analysis in particular places. Second, facilitating the implementation of intersectional approaches will require methodological innovations that have thus far been under-addressed in this literature.