Gendered adaptations to climate change: the case of rice farming communities in the Philippines

2017-05-18T04:41:15Z (GMT) by Tatlonghari, Gerlie
Climate change causing heavy rainfall and floods is one of the major constraints to agricultural productivity particularly in rice farming in the Philippines. Despite many studies on the adverse impacts of unpredictable extreme weather events on agriculture, very few studies have examined the differential vulnerabilities and adaptation strategies of male and female farmers in rice farming communities. This study examines gendered vulnerabilities and impacts as well as variable adaptation strategies taken by men and women in response to extreme flooding events in Nueva Ecija, Philippines. To assess how gendered adaptation strategies are produced and reinforced in two selected farming communities in the Philippines, I draw on practice theory and adopt a feminist perspective to examine how structure and agency influence practices and how practices can be changed in order to adapt to climate change. Moreover, since this study has a feminist agenda - gender is central to the analysis in order to expose gender differences and inequalities in areas experiencing climate change and to show how social change can empower and improve women’s position as they adapt to climate change. Adopting a feminist methodology was facilitated by a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods. Results of this study reveal that gendered vulnerabilities to extreme flooding are due to traditional gender roles in household and farming activities and women’s lack of access to assets and resources. Also, men and women adapt to flooding according to traditional roles and gender relations. The differential vulnerabilities and responses to the negative effects of flooding events of women and men are further aggravated by women’s lack of access of assets and resources and lesser participation in making decisions related to farming. However, prolonged exposure to flooding and continuous loss of livelihood motivated some men and women to realize the need to alter their existing gender roles and relations. Women are compelled to spend more time outside their homes to seek income from non-farm work. In this situation, men assume household and child care responsibilities. This alteration of gender roles and relations has significant impacts particularly for women who have challenged the underlying assumptions and taken action to change their situation and lessen the impacts of climate change on themselves and their households. However, their desired changes are dependent on other institutions, such as non-government organizations (NGOs) and government that must facilitate much needed social change. This implies that changes in gender practices not only require women to think and act differently but require changes at the state and institutional level. Thus, this study concludes that climate change is a necessary but not sufficient condition for women to achieve social change. Furthermore, in order to sustain new practices in gender roles and relations, a women’s global movement is needed to assist local women to assert their rights to greater access to and control of resources and to influence policies which are necessary in building women’s resilience to climate change.