Climate services are crucial to food security, providing weather and seasonal forecasts as well as advice on which crops to sow in a changing climate. Pictured is Hawa Msami, the leader of a women community listening group in Mulua village, in the Kondoa district of Tanzania. (Photo: Jacqueline Tesha/NORCAP)

Building women's climate resilience

Helene Henriksen|Published 23. Dec 2020
When droughts, floods and hurricanes strike, women are disproportionately affected. Four female NORCAP climate experts are working to counteract that, providing crucial climate information to women in rural communities in Africa.

As extreme weather events continue to intensify, the effects of climate change are felt all over the world. However, the impact is greater on the communities that have the least capacity to respond - and especially on women.

Women are often responsible for gathering and producing food, collecting water and sourcing fuel for heating and cooking. Although this makes them highly vulnerable to climate change, they nonetheless have less access to networks, household radios and other communication tools such as phones or computers.

From farmers to politicians

Access to effective and accurate climate and weather information is crucial if vulnerable communities are to be prepared when irregular or extreme weather events occur.

Climate services such as weather and seasonal forecasts, as well as advice on how to adapt agricultural practices or infrastructure, are highly relevant whether you are a farmer in Tanzania or a politician in Kenya wanting to keep communities safe from flooding.

A leader of a female community listening group in Tanzania demonstrates to climate expert Jacqueline Tesha how to operate a solar powered MP3 radio. Radios can provide access to crucial information such as weather and seasonal forecasts. (Photo: World Food Programme)

To reach the most vulnerable women and girls, female climate services providers play a key role. NORCAP currently has four women deployed in Malawi, Niger, Tanzania and Kenya, to different organisations under NORCAP’s "Strengthening Climate Services in Africa" project, funded by Norad.

Crucial radio access

 “While conducting NORCAP’s access to climate information survey, we realised that there were many gaps in the access to climate services between men and women. These were mainly driven by different levels of participation in public policy, community meetings or even in the ownership of radio in the households”, explains Marta Baraibar.

Marta is a Climate Communications Expert deployed to ICPAC, a regional climate center in Nairobi, Kenya, where she works to improve the intake of climate services and early warning information.

Providing climate information that is accessible and comprehensible to all members of a community can be challenging, she says. Rural women are particularly disadvantaged, as they rarely receive the same level of information as men and decision-makers in the community.

Climate expert Yacine Fall interviewing the leader of a women’s group called FARHA in Tessa commune, Niger, on the subject of women’s access to climate services. (Photo: Yacine Fall/NORCAP)


The value of female climate experts

In Niger, where floods have destroyed thousands of homes this year, causing high rates of internal displacement, NORCAP expert Yacine Falls is deployed to UNDP as a Regional Programme Advisor for the Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS). Her work contributes to making sure women in local communities receive the climate information they need.

“As female climate experts, we can naturally communicate and understand women’s information needs”, she says.

“To reach out to them, we need to develop communication channels that respond to their preferences. One important way is to involve women’s groups and networks on the co-production of climate services.”

A leader of a female community listening group in Lon, Tanzania, teaching another female group on how to operate a solar powered MP3 radio. Listening groups are vital for farmers to gain access to information and share knowledge related to their daily work. Listening groups are also valuable to provide feedback to radio programs on how they can improve and better serve farmers with weather and climate related information (Photo: Jacqueline Tesha/NORCAP)

For her work in Malawi, Tasiana Mzozo works as a Project Manager providing support to the Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS) Adaptation Programme.

One of the main platforms being used to reach vulnerable women with climate services, is radio listening groups and table banking groups, a type of microfinance system where women save money together and borrow from each other.

“When I see the women listening to the radio and using seasonal forecasts to plan for the season, I know the struggle, and I know where they are coming from” says Tasiana.

Tasiana has belonged to a table banking group for many years herself, in her home country Kenya. The group helped her with her career, she says, and taught her about the value of inclusion.

Finding their voices

As part of GFCS’s project in Tanzania, Jacqueline Tesha works on increasing women’s participation in climate services with the World Food Programme (WFP).

In a partnership between WFP and Farm Radio International, a non-profit organisation that works to improve food security, a radio segment called ‘Her Voice on Air’, was established.

“The segment was highly successful in capturing female voices. They were free to talk and interact with other women about their concerns and opinions”, Jaqueline says.

“When the segment was aired, the radio stations received more phone calls and feedback from women. They were inspired and motivated by hearing their fellow women speaking.”

The unanimous message from our four NORCAP climate experts is that women need to be part of the solution. Only then can we ensure that climate services are inclusive and sustainable for all.