This Working Paper is produced by the Gender Equity Practice as part of a series four research papers commissioned by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that investigates barriers and enablers of gender-responsive approaches within different aspects of agricultural adaptation—climate-smart agriculture, nature-based solutions, financing, and locally led processes.

This paper discusses the barriers to and enabling conditions for designing and implementing gender-responsive climate-smart agriculture initiatives. Through examples, the paper identifies lessons and promising practices for addressing gender issues across the range of CSA interventions from farm level practices and systems approaches to the enabling environment. Through two deep dive case studies, the paper showcases the potential for CSA to contribute to gender-transformative results and offers recommendations for doing so.


  • Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) could achieve its goals more effectively and efficiently if its design and implementation intentionally addressed gender and social inequalities.
  • Despite institutional commitments to gender equality, few CSA interventions move beyond technical approaches to consider the gender and social norms that affect their success and who benefits from them.
  • This working paper details promising practices for designing and implementing gender-responsive CSA interventions based on an extensive review of the literature, case study analysis, and interviews with 23 stakeholders.
  • To be effective, CSA implementers should build institutional awareness and capacity, and assess and eliminate the biases that prevent them from effectively using gender-responsive approaches to CSA.
  • Effective gender-responsive CSA design must start with a gender and social analysis of the context and participatory identification and engagement of stakeholders.

Executive Summary:


Climate-smart agriculture is an integrated approach introduced by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in 2010 to achieve the triple wins of addressing food and nutrition security, improving resilience to climate change, and limiting greenhouse gas emissions. Women, who play a critical role in agricultural and food systems, often bear a disproportionate burden in responding to the effects of climate change on agriculture.

Existing CSA projects show limited evidence of gender-responsiveness. While there has been significant focus on introducing climate-resilient technologies and practices to improve climate resilience, limited attention has been paid to providing enabling environments to support women in enabling their uptake of CSA projects and technologies.


Despite high-level policies and priorities that call for gender equality, CSA projects continue to be ineffective at benefiting women due to limited institutional commitments and resources needed to build gender-related capabilities of staff working on CSA projects.

To become gender-responsive, CSA projects need to engage with women at various levels. Improving women’s collectivization at the local level, improving participation in leadership roles at macro levels, and promoting women’s decision-making across all levels are equally important to enhance gender-responsiveness.

Ensuring institutional support, budgeting for and engaging with gender experts, creating awareness among project staff, ensuring engagement with men and women to understand their different needs from agriculture under climate change, and reorienting policy frameworks to enable CSA practices and technology adoption are needed to ensure gender inclusion and optimal CSA outcomes.

About this working paper

This working paper contextualizes the broad body of literature on gender and CSA to provide an understanding of the barriers and enabling conditions for effectively engaging women and advancing their priorities and agency within CSA projects. Examining gender issues along the three CSA entry points—on-farm practices, systems approaches, and enabling environments—we find there is no one-size-fits-all approach for improving women’s access to CSA technologies and practices.

Deeper engagement with women’s strategic and practical needs in agriculture is required. Women’s practical needs include access to labor-saving devices, climate information, and training on farming techniques, while strategic needs include policies that afford women secure access to land, as well as shifts in social norms to provide women with greater mobility, encourage men to contribute equally to domestic responsibilities, and facilitate decision-making and leadership opportunities for women.


  • Incorporate gender and social equity as a primary objective of CSA initiatives. Social inequalities, local conditions, power dynamics, and social norms can result in men and women having different opportunities and constraints, which can aid or hinder CSA adoption and the achievement of CSA outcomes.
  • Address the gender gap by focusing on issues of power, asset and resource allocation, leadership, agency, and empowerment. Gendered relations could be reshaped by engaging intermediaries with deep ties to communities and through more methodical inclusion of women community leaders in the design of local CSA interventions.
  • Cultivate and nurture gender-responsive CSA ecosystems that address the social changes needed to facilitate women’s adoption of technologies and tools such as women’s land rights, access to credit, and engagement in decision-making.
  • Institutionalize contextual analysis of social norms around gender, agriculture, and climate and address institutional and policy-level biases that perpetuate gender gaps.
  • Foster greater adoption of CSA by supporting women’s participation and priorities. Women farmers need to be considered equal stakeholders, and their demands must be reflected in social and economic policies and programming.
  • Ensure greater diversity, equity, and inclusion among CSA project staff to facilitate representation of different perspectives.

Preview image by Sabin Ray/WRI