The Domino Effect Between Climate Change and Women Farmers

Climate change's impact is a major topic of conversation this time of year, as we approach Earth Day on Tuesday. And although the topic spans recycling, energy conservation, greenhouse gasses, and the polar ice caps, there is much more to consider.

For those of us who work on agriculture and economic empowerment issues, global warming clearly connects to the world's farmers and their crops, which will continue to be extraordinarily affected by climate change.

But did you know that the vast majority of farmers are women?

More than 80 percent of the world's farmers are smallholder farmers--most of them women. In developing countries, women control less land and usually farm the least viable soil in the village.

Even with the best weather conditions, women farmers have a tough time getting their crops to market, dealing with middle-men, plowing their fields and owning their own land. If women had access to the resources and tools they needed, the FAO says that between 100 and 150 million more people could be fed.

But add to those obstacles a drought, a flood, or even a mild shift in climate that reduces or devastates crops, and women and their families can be plunged into deeper poverty. Women's crops are usually used to feed the family or to sell in order to provide income for school, medicine, or household needs.

A bad crop year can be catastrophic for families and communities who rely on smaller farms to supplement their income. And global-warming will exacerbate the difficulties of people currently living in poverty. Last week, a United Nations report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change highlighted the devastating effects climate change will have if we continue on a path toward limited action.

This Earth Day, please think of the women farmers globally who depend on consistent weather conditions to support themselves. An off season or a powerful storm due to global warming means tragedy to subsistence farmers around the world.