UN FAO report reveals climate crisis far worse for rural women

  • Post last modified:March 6, 2024
  • Reading time:4 mins read

On Tuesday 5 March, the United Nations’ (UN) food and farming agency published a report highlighting the gendered impacts of the climate crisis in poor agrarian communities. The UN Food and Agriculture Agency’s (FAO) “The Unjust Climate” study detailed the financial disparity between men and women in rural households in light of climate-fueled extreme weather.

Specifically, it expressed how the climate crisis intensifies existing gender inequalities. As a result, heatwaves and floods inflict greater economic pain on rural women than men.

Climate crisis harming poorest households most

Scientists say the effects of rising temperatures are already harming the poorest and most vulnerable people on the planet most acutely. The UN FAO analysed data from 109,341 households in 24 low and middle-income countries. It cross-referenced these with rain, snow, and temperature data over a 70 year period.

In rural areas, poorer households have limited access to resources, services and jobs. Given this, they can find it harder to cope with climate crisis impacts. Notably, on average, they lose 5% more income than wealthier households due to heatwaves and 4% more due to floods.

What’s more, the UN FAO report found that women-led households are even harder hit. Compared to men-led households, they lose around 8% more of their income due to excessive heat. During floods they would lose 3% more relative to men.

This amounts to an average drop in income per person of $83 due to heat stress, and $35 due to floods. Extrapolating this across all developing countries, these losses totalled $37bn and $16bn respectively.

UN FAO: it’s worse for women

The UN FAO report said that:

Failure to address the unequal impacts of climate change on rural people will intensify the already large gap between the haves and have-nots, and between men and women

Crucially, it explained that rural, women-led households in low and middle income nations already face more financial burdens than men when disaster strikes. The UN FAO attributed this to deep rooted “social structures, and discriminatory norms and institutions”.

For instance, the report highlighted that women are bearing a much larger domestic and childcare burden than men, limiting their opportunities to study and find a job. Additionally, this also makes it harder for them to migrate or make money from non-farming activities when the climate crisis affects their crops.

On top of this, the UN FAO report suggested that if these “significant existing differences” in wages are not addressed, the gap will worsen. Notably, it calculated that if average temperatures increase by just 1°c, women would face a 34% greater loss in total income compared to men.

The perfect storm of patriarchy and climate crisis

Already, scientists have estimated that current global temperatures are around 1.3°c hotter overall than they were in the late 19th century. Moreover, multiple studies have linked the climate crisis with the relentless increase in destructive extreme weather such as floods, storms and heatwaves.

Ultimately, the study illustrated that a perfect storm of patriarchy and the climate crisis are pushing women in land-based communities into further poverty. Importantly, it shows that gender justice must be front and centre of efforts to tackle the climate crisis and the work to mitigate its impacts.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse.

Feature image via Lomoraronald/Wikimedia, cropped and resized to 1200 by 900, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

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