The respondents’ socio-economic characteristics are summarized in Table 1. The mean age of sampled individuals, regardless of gender, is approximately 52 years. On average, men have slightly higher income, more landholdings, and dependents relative to women (Table 1). The respondents have an average of almost 40 years of farming experience, and women typically have more farming experience than men. With regards to land-use decision making, 84 % of male respondents consider themselves the head of the household and landowner, whereas 15 % reported practicing joint decision making (Table 2). Of the 63 female respondents, 41 % indicated that their husbands are the principal household decision maker, 37 % indicated themselves as primary land-use decision makers, and 22 % practice joint decision making with their husbands. Women typically assume the role of household head upon the death of their husbands (in which case land is automatically inherited from the deceased spouse) as well as during periods when their husbands live away from home for off-farm jobs.
The majority of women do not have any formal education (Table 2). Most agricultural labor is provided by family members; however, some external labor is required depending on activity levels, particularly when household males are working away from home and crops need to be cultivated or harvested. The majority of respondents inherited their land.
Individual perceptions on climate change and adaptation measures
In general, men and women share similar perceptions of climate change, especially with respect to rainfall patterns (Table 3). Respondents of both genders report that winds have become more violent over time and destroy their crops, in addition to uprooting trees and damaging houses. There is also consensus between genders that the ‘Harmattan,’ cold—dry and dusty trade winds from the Sahara—and the dry season are no longer distinguishable.
The most commonly reported climate change adaptation measures (Table 4) are the use of fertilizers and pesticides (54 % of both men and women), followed by variation of planting dates and repeated sowing (42 % of men and 57 % of women), the use of improved crop varieties (42 % of men and 56 % of women), and adopting different farming practices such as mechanization (40 % of men and 41 % of women). Male respondents are more likely to report the use of fertilizers and herbicides to cope with declining yields due to worsening weather conditions. Both men and women respondents express a preference for an improved variety of maize that reaches harvest in 75 days and a cowpea variety that can be harvested at 65 days. Furthermore, there is a consensus that Bambara groundnut (Vigna subterranea), a traditional food crop, is no longer suitable to the current climatic conditions.
Gender-specific group response to rainfall variability
The gaming exercise results are summarized in Fig. 3. Neither the t test nor Wilcoxon test results indicate significant differences between genders. Groups of both genders have similar average rainfall patterns during the game exercises (Fig. 3a). During years 1–4 of each game, groups of both men and women have similar patterns of livestock production (Fig. 3b). The mode of selling livestock differs slightly between genders; women typically sell livestock in years 3 and 5, whereas men steadily sell livestock every year. Overall, women-only groups produce less than half of the average number of degraded patches as the men-only groups (Fig. 3c). Women-only groups convert more patches to crop production than men-only groups (Fig. 3c). Most women participants express displeasure when they produce bush/fallow or degraded patches (Fig. 3c), and make greater efforts to restore these patches by selling livestock and using the proceeds to purchase fertilizer or convert the patch to crop production. In contrast, men generally exhibit a more positive attitude regarding the production of bush patches, which they perceive would serve “somewhat like a fallow to restore soil fertility.” Although both men and women perceive cotton as superior to other crops (probably because it provides short-term income and is subsidized through discounted fertilizer and pesticide assistance by the government), women typically choose to cultivate staple crops such as maize and rice, which are not subsidized by the government.
Players respond to lower rainfall by dividing herds or by feeding their livestock half rations. Also, according to the farmers, “they always prepare their land before the rain starts, but nowadays the rain is delayed.” This statement from the post-game session implies that every decision depends on information regarding rainfall.
Gender-specific perceptions and strategies
Both genders view low rainfall as ‘bad weather’ that leads to drought and starvation, and high rainfall is associated with abundant harvests and good conditions. Participants of both genders react competitively to incoming players under the population growth scenario by forcing newcomers to sell their livestock, especially when rainfall is low and livestock forage is less available. All groups engage in group consultations for making decisions, especially with respect to land-use and coping strategies. During the fertilizer scenario, only two (a male-only and a female-only) groups accepted the offer. Among those groups, the male-only group used the subsidized fertilizer to restore 10 degraded patches and the women-only group restored 2 degraded patches.
There are a number of apparent differences apparent from the gaming experiment (Table 5). Communication style among group members differed by gender. Men typically only have group discussions (about what coping strategies to adopt) during rounds with low rainfall, whereas participating women engaged in group discussions regardless of rainfall levels, suggesting that the women are generally more communicative than the men. Accordingly, women are more hesitant to make decisions individually and appear more likely to rely on others, such as neighbors. As a result, games among women-only groups lasted approximately 1 h longer than among men-only groups.
The reflection sessions also revealed gender-specific spatial perceptions that affected their ability to adapt to climate variability. Men perceive that Pendjari National Park, a protected area that covers about 50 % of the study area, limits agricultural expansion and inhibits them from grazing their livestock (Table 5). Women are more likely to raise concerns about the incidence of crop pests and diseases near their homes that negatively affect yields and require additional control measures. They believe that pesticides would help them to protect their crops against pests observed under variable climatic conditions (Table 4). There are also gender-specific perspectives on crops. For example, yam is the most common crop choice among men and rice is most common among women.
Identified strategies for adapting to climate variability by both genders are improved herd management practices and farm improvements, while seeking governmental assistance is another common coping strategy. However, women generally consider livestock management as the responsibility of men. Women are more likely to sell small quantities of livestock during extreme weather events to improve livestock survival, while some express the desire to diversify income through building rental houses. Typically, women participants allocate income for household expenditures. Men are more likely to use proceeds from livestock sales to moving to larger towns or bordering countries (i.e., Nigeria) to seek wage labor opportunities, while some use the funds to purchase new motorcycles, improve their farms, and marry a new wife. The players make some recommendations related to policies and government assistance, such as increased subsidies. Most recommendations focus on water issues (mainly for drinking and agricultural activities), access to credit, fertilizer, drought resistant crop varieties, and extension services for improving farming practices, which supports the identified adaptation strategies generated from the survey results.