Women’s role in adapting to climate change challenged by massive out-migration of men from rural Tajikistan

Poverty is the worst pollution in the face of climate change, and even more when your voice is not heard.

Tajikistan’s mountains and the terrains are considered to be some of the most beautiful in the world; however, the 93% mountain cover of the territory makes the country physically vulnerable to climate change and the least able to adapt. The changing weather patterns have triggered a chain reaction putting the agricultural sector under large stress, affecting the 70% of the rural population dependent on farming for their livelihoods.

Women make up the majority of the rural poor in Tajikistan

Women have very limited capacity to cope with or recover from weather related losses induced by climate change. And, this might pose an additional risk to affect natural capital and agricultural productivity. Thus, there is a need to strengthen the knowledge of current and potential implications of climate change and environmental degradation to inform gender responsive strategies.

Along with having two jobs of feeding the family and making an income of the land, women are still restricted by patriarchal social-culture practices even when being left to head the farm due to massive male out-migration. This culture limits women´s capacity to better adapt to changing environment, because it restricts women’s rights to: land ownership; access to natural resources; participation in decision-making; education; and lack of access to markets, capital and technology.

In Tajikistan the majority of farmers are women, yet they only own 8% of the farms, which can have an impact on the way natural capital is exploited. That’s why it is important not to victimize women due to their vulnerabilities, but see women as actors of change possessing knowledge and skills critical in finding solutions to environmental challenges.Women are a driving force of the new, more equitable and sustainable model of growth. Their holistic way of farming and alternatives for land use is a turn towards sustainable farming, and their position as family caretakers of natural and household resources position them to contribute and adjust more easily towards the changing environmental realities and the strategies adapted. Gender equality is a driver of sustainable environmental development that can help to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

The UNDP-UN Environment, Poverty and Environment Initiative is working to raise awareness of the linkages between gender-environment-poverty by integrating pro-poor and pro-environmental objectives for green growth in national and sub-national development planning.  The Initiative aims for sustainability in resources, reduction in poverty and equity for marginalized groups including women. Since 2010, Poverty-Environment Initiative has been working together with the Tajik Government and has so far successfully launched projects and enterprises supported by regional trust funds; and also, green micro-loans, giving Tajik women an active role in the local economy and a chance to strive for a better livelihood.

50 % of the green micro-loans are targeted towards women-led initiatives. 

These synergies between gender equality, economic development and environmental sustainability should not be forgotten in order to strengthen women´s access to economic opportunities, green jobs, eco-friendly technologies and services; and thus, supporting women´s resilience in the face of disaster and climate change adaption. 


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