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Gender Differences in Climate Change Risk, Food Security, and Adaptation: A Study of Rural Households’ Reliance on Agriculture and Natural Resources to Sustain Livelihoods

Tibesigwa, Byela, Martine Visser, Mark Collinson and Wayne Twine. 2015. “Gender Differences in Climate Change Risk, Food Security, and Adaptation: A Study of Rural Households’ Reliance on Agriculture and Natural Resources to Sustain Livelihoods.” EfD Discussion Paper Series 15-20.
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Climate and weather variability in sub-Saharan Africa disproportionately leave female-headed households food insecure. However, the extent and reasons for these gender differences are, thus far, not well understood. This study examines gender-food-climate connections using longitudinal data from rural households in north-eastern South Africa. Results confirm gender distinctions in that male-headed households are more food secure. Importantly, however, female-headed households are not a homogenous group. Participation in agriculture and utilisation of natural resources narrows the male-female consumption gap to 10.3% amongst de jure female-headed households – those with female heads who are single, widowed, divorced, or separated. Yet, these land-based practices are associated with a greater male-female gap (27.4%) amongst de facto female-headed households – married female heads who are married, but whose husbands are away. Further, and contrary to expectation, weather-related crop failure threatens food security in both male- and female-headed households, but less so amongst de facto female-headed households, who remain more dependent on remittances.