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Gendered agrobiodiversity management and adaptation to climate change: differentiated strategies in two marginal rural areas of India

Abstract

Social and cultural contexts influence power dynamics and shape gender perceptions, roles, and decisions regarding the management of agrobiodiversity for dealing with and adapting to climate change. Based on a feminist political ecology framework and a mixed method approach, this research performs an empirical analysis of two case studies in the northern of India, one in the Himalayan Mountains and another in the Indian-Gangetic plains. It explores context-specific (i) influence of gender roles and responsibilities on on-farm agrobiodiversity management (ii) gendered expertise and knowledge related to agrobiodiversity and (iii) gendered preferences for practices and institutional arrangements for agrobiodiversity conservation linked to adaptation to climate change. In the Himalayan mountains women actively participate in crop and seed management decisions and tasks, and maintain informal institutions for seed and services exchanges in the case of crisis, which simultaneously favours high levels of agrobiodiversity and enhances women’s social status. By contrast, in the Indio-Gangetic plains, where women from better-off households are socially secluded and women from poorer households work mainly as labourer to respond to high out-migration of men, they exercise less public control over agrobiodiversity, with their role being mainly invisible at the homestead and related to post-production tasks. We finally discuss as improved understanding of the links between gendered spaces, crops, tasks, social status, and agrobiodiversity management can facilitate the design of gender-sensitive policy interventions for conservation and adaptation to climate change.

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2

(Source: Survey)

Fig. 3

(Source: Survey)

Fig. 4

(Source: Survey)

Fig. 5

(Source: FGDs)

Notes

  1. In both zones people distinguished between seed and crop. Seed selection is only interpreted as for next cropping.

  2. A collective validation of interviews regarding the gendered division of tasks related to agriculture and specifically to seed management activities was also carried out in order to evaluate the possible bias of responses in individual interviews.

  3. Food self-sufficiency is here defined and measured in terms of the ability to provide food from own reserves in a normal year. We have used food self-sufficiency as a proxy for food security, while recognizing that measuring “food security” per se is more complex.

  4. For this category, we know from supplementary information collected in the area (i.e., participant observation and interviews) that wage labour is mainly carried out by women and girls except for tasks related to land preparation.

  5. Due to time and resource constraints, it was not possible to conduct an individual knowledge survey. However, during the FGDs men and women were asked separately to free-list and describe (i.e., use, agroecological conditions, characteristics) all species and varieties used in the past and currently.

Abbreviations

CCAFS:

Climate change, agriculture and food security research program

CGIAR:

Consultative group on international agricultural research

FGD:

Focus group discussion

ICAR:

Indian council of agricultural research

NBPGR:

National bureau of plant genetic resources

VPKAS:

Vivekananda Parvatiya Krishi Anusandhan Sansthan

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Acknowledgements

This work was carried out in collaboration with Bioversity International and the Basque Centre for Climate Change. We would like to thank Dr. Prem Mathur and the entire staff of Bioversity International, India for their logistical support and assistance with data collection. We would like to acknowledge the farmers from villages in Uttarakhand and Bihar who participated in the research, as well as expressing our gratitude to Dr. Sahai and colleagues from Gene Campaign, Dr. Solanki and the staff of Rajendra Agricultural University at Pusa Campus in Bihar staff at VPKAS, Almora and staff at the NBPGR Regional Station in Bowali, Uttarakhand for their support in undertaking the field work. I would especially like to thank Ms. Puja Bisht, Ms. Kamini Kumari, Ms. Marya Zabeen and Mr. Avinash Kumar for their dedication during survey interviews and focus group discussions. Funding for this research was provided by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), which is carried out with support from CGIAR Fund Donors and through bilateral funding agreements. For details please visit https://ccafs.cgiar.org/donors. The views expressed in this document cannot be taken to reflect the official opinions of these organizations. The first author received funds by the Ministry of Economy, Industry and Competitiveness (Spain) (IJCI-2015-25586) and AXA Research Fund (2017–2019).

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Appendix 1

Appendix 1

See Fig. 6.

Fig. 6
figure 6

(Source: FGDs)

Criteria of preference between men and women for the adoption of landraces and modern varieties (MVs) of rice, in Uttarakhand and Bihar.

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Ravera, F., Reyes-García, V., Pascual, U. et al. Gendered agrobiodiversity management and adaptation to climate change: differentiated strategies in two marginal rural areas of India. Agric Hum Values 36, 455–474 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10460-018-09907-w

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Keywords

  • Adaptation
  • Climate change
  • Feminist political ecology
  • Gender
  • India
  • On-farm agrobiodiversity