Adaptation Learning Programme Empowering Women and Increasing Adaptation in Niger
The Adaptation Learning Program (ALP) aims to increase the capacity of vulnerable households in sub-Saharan Africa to adapt to increasing and uncertain climate change and climate variability. Funded by DFID, since 2010 CARE has implemented ALP to work with communities, government institutions and civil society organizations in Niger to implement community adaptation action plans (CAAPs), which build community capacity to analyze, make decisions and plan adaptation actions, and integrate climate change information into vulnerability monitoring and early warning systems.
In Niger, the program developed innovative community-based adaptation (CBA) approaches and strategies with farming and pastoralist communities, and promoted their integration into local and national government systems and programmes. As part of this process, each community analyzed the most effective strategies in regard to gender roles and relations. They assessed the implications for women, men, households and the community as a whole, in terms of time, labour, resources and social relations. Different roles and responsibilities were then negotiated between women and men in the communities to encourage a more sustainable and equitable division of labour as part of increasing the adaptive capacity of the community as a whole. It is also important to look for synergies between CBA strategies, and between short-term investments for quick wins and long-term investments to build capacity and work towards social change. An example of integrated interventions is providing Village Savings and Loans, institutional capacity-building, training and improved access to climate information. These interventions worked together to improve women’s livelihoods and place in society in Niger.
In pastoral communities in Niger, the major concern is the effect of climate shocks on livestock, most notably the impact of drought on the availability of water and pastures, and the resulting consequences for animal health and productivity. Each successive drought makes it more difficult for households, and herds must travel further to find green pastures. The impacts of climate shocks have challenged pastoral lifestyles. An increasing number of nomadic communities are settling down in the southern parts of Niger to grow crops.
In 2014, good rainfall enabled excellent harvests of millet and cowpea, which are some of the climate resilient livelihood strategies communities identified in their CAAPs. ALP-supported communities implemented warrantage – a strategy that helps farmers store their surplus crop production and receive credit to satisfy their immediate needs. Approximately 12,702,500 CFA franc (US$25,405) has enabled 464 women and 429 men to store more than 70 tons of millet and cowpea in warrantage cereal banks. Many communities in non‐ALP sites are now requesting to be part of warrantage groups in ALP communities. Cereal banks in the warrantage system in Niger are breaking the cycle of debt incurred by vulnerable people after selling their agricultural produce at low market rates. Access to credit through warrantage is providing capital for investment in diversified and lucrative livelihood activities such as fattening of sheep and goats that is mostly done by women; sale of sugar, tea, chocolate, and sugar cane; and transporting goods and agricultural by ‐ products within the communities and to weekly markets.
ALP supported the capacity of 52 CBOs (warrantage and VSLA groups) to develop their organizational frameworks and succeed in fulfilling requirements for legal recognition. Legal registration is also enabling the warrantage groups to open bank accounts and access formal financial savings and credit services. Economic power also raises confidence to have a say in decision‐making. This has reinforced their voice, particularly of women, and promoted inclusion of community CBA plans in the commune development plans.
Women participating in several income generating and savings group activities have gained new opportunities to meet together and more frequently with major increases in confidence and unity as well as economic power. They have been able to save and are becoming more financially independent which has allowed them to make their own investments in farm inputs and activities. Based on this they are also participating and speaking more in community meetings in public, are members of management structures (committees, groups) and take part in decision‐making. Men have become more willing to involve women in community activities, although deep‐seated cultural norms still limit this.This is a significant change in socially conservative Niger.
Across the communities where ALP is working, access to communication technologies has improved following the expansion of cellular services and radio. Communities claim that ‘The cell has changed the world.’ The potential of mobile technologies to improve women’s ability to adapt is important. In Niger, mobile phones can empower rural women, compensating for their restricted physical mobility, giving them access to information, and strengthening their social networks. ALP has promoted communication technologies for women through mobile phones and radios, with mobile phones being used to access and share climate information, a critical variable in climate change adaptation and any agriculture programming that claims to be climate smart. These women saw mobile phones as a way to take control from men or from the older generation, including mothers-in-law. However, some persistent issues reinforce inequitable access to communication technology, and the information it makes available. Women’s lower levels of literacy, their restricted access to technology (like mobile phones and radios) and their workloads limit their ability to make use of these new sources of information.
Understanding context specific gender dynamics and working with all members of the community through CAAPs allowed the project to understand the role that women could play in the CBA, including the promotion of women’s visibility in the community. This has increased the accountability of women’s groups in local governance and resilience, while also building strong ownership of local planning and integration of climate risk into their practices.
Equipping women with information for risk management was crucial to promoting the participation of women in paid on-farm and non-farm activities. Some women have used savings from the VSLA to buy solar kits for recharging mobile phones. The payments they receive for a mobile phone charging service provide extra family income. The ability to charge mobile phones also means that people can share weather forecasts and early disaster warnings more regularly and easily.
Empowering for adaptation means that women felt that ALP had ‘awakened’ them to a different potential future and that this awareness was irreversible. Their aspirations reflect a coherent strategy for risk prevention through empowerment, improved literacy, access to information and communication technology, improved agricultural and farm animal production, reduced workloads, and reduced risks connected with early and frequent childbearing.
 ALP Annual Report, 2014