Agroecology: A Game Changer for Gender Equality and Sustainability?

Agroecology, which applies ecological principles to agriculture, such as sustainable farming and eco-friendly practices, has gained increasing interest amidst the climate crisis. But what does agroecology have to do with gender equality? 

As our planet grapples with the climate crisis, researchers have delved into how these farming practices can redefine gender roles, especially in the Global South. 

Fascinating findings from Latin America to Africa to Asia suggest that agroecology can be a tool for empowering women farmers, improving gender equality, and boosting women’s decision-making power. At the same time, these practices also combat climate change and ensure food on our plates.

However, outcomes vary across contexts. In some places, managing biodiversity is highly gendered, with men controlling commercial seed systems while women focus on local seeds. The impacts depend on the community’s cultural norms. But overall, agroecology shows potential to be transformative.

What’s refreshing about the field of agroecology is that many studies use participatory methods, engaging farmers directly through workshops and action research. Rather than top-down interventions, this facilitates mutual learning between farmers and scientists. Key books and reports also compile case studies of women-led agroecology initiatives.

Recently, there’s been a shift towards explicitly incorporating feminist ideas into agroecology. Concepts like food sovereignty, social justice and intersectionality are now prominent in the agroecology literature. This feminist lens scrutinizes power imbalances in food systems and moves beyond gender stereotypes and recognizes the diverse experiences of women.

More work is still needed at the intersections of gender, race, class, caste, and indigeneity. But the research demonstrates agroecology isn’t just about eco-friendly farming – it can cultivate more just and equitable communities as well. 

As the climate crisis exacerbates gender disparities, agroecology may offer a promising solution. The field is still relatively new, but holds radical possibilities. Through collaborating with farmers through participatory action research and feminist principles, we have the opportunity to foster feminist agroecological practices globally, paving the way for a more just future.

For more information and illustration of the nuances of this research, delve into the literature landscape brief showcasing key studies and debates. 

Read the brief here!

This blog and the corresponding brief were written by Trimita Chakma. To read all of the resources compiled by Trimita and Bea Moraras as part of the Technical Guidance and Data Mapping consultancy, see A Snapshot of Gender-Environment Data.

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