Climate Change is Not Gender Neutral

farmer with potatoes
Photo by: Subarna Maitra, ILRG

A Q&A with PepsiCo and USAID on making the business case for women’s empowerment and combating climate change in West Bengal, India

Cross-posted from the USAID Medium blog

Margaret Henry, PepsiCo’s Director of Sustainable Agriculture; Sarah Lowery, Economist & Public-Private Finance Specialist in USAID’s Land and Resource Governance Division; and Corinne Hart, Senior Gender Advisor for Energy and Environment at USAID’s Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Hub, discuss how USAID and PepsiCo are working together to equip women farmers with skills to adapt to the effects of climate change.

Why did PepsiCo and USAID partner in India?

Margaret: PepsiCo and USAID came together in West Bengal, India, to form a partnership to demonstrate the business case for women’s empowerment. PepsiCo has had a long-standing commitment to sustainability and to farmer livelihoods, but we knew we couldn’t solve all the problems alone. We partnered with USAID to expand our ability to influence and benefit the women of West Bengal, who are an integral part of our farming communities.

seated group of women
USAID and Pepsico sponsor training for Eid Mubarak group members. Photo credit: Subarna Maitra, ILRG

Women are often ignored in the agricultural sector. How can the USAID-PepsiCo partnership change that?

Sarah: Women produce 60 to 80 percent of food across the world, but they own a mere fraction of the land that they farm. They are also less likely to control resources, receive technical training, and enjoy the financial benefits from commercial farming. In West Bengal, women have important roles throughout the potato supply chain, and this partnership ensures that women have access to land and the knowledge and skills they need to excel in these roles.

woman harvesting potatoes
Women harvesting potatoes. Photo credit: Subarna Maitra, ILRG

What are some of the results you have seen from this partnership for women farmers and PepsiCo?

Corinne: In addition to greater access to land and productive resources, the partnership in West Bengal is engaging all members of household and local champions like potato aggregators to shift gender norms that limit women’s participation and benefit sharing. Over the past two years we have seen women gain mobility, decision-making power over farming decisions and household income, and confidence as lead farmers and community agronomists. Women’s families and communities increasingly acknowledge their roles and the skills they bring to potato farming.

How can empowering women increase productivity and mitigate the effects of climate change on agricultural supply chains?

Margaret: Every day, farmers face critical challenges from climate change, and we want to work with them to not only reduce the impact of agriculture on climate change, but to help them adapt to the changes that are coming. By empowering women, we empower our supply chains to do better. Not only in terms of productivity, but with environmental performance and adaptation to the kinds of events associated with climate change.

woman farmer with potatoes
Mafuja, member of Eid Mubarak Group, at harvest in Moloypur, Hooghly. Photo credit: Subarna Maitra, ILRG

How are USAID and PepsiCo scaling this partnership in West Bengal to meet global gender equality and climate goals?

Corinne: In 2020 USAID and PepsiCo began a Global Development Alliance, a five-year, $20 million co-funded partnership to demonstrate that investing in women in PepsiCo’s supply chains can lead to greater profitability and sustainability, as well as development outcomes, like gender equality and economic growth. Evidence-based approaches to improve women’s access to resources, land, skills, and employment, alongside robust data collection, will make a compelling business case for scaling to additional PepsiCo markets and influencing other global companies sourcing from rural communities. By integrating gender equality and women’s empowerment into PepsiCo’s global sustainable agriculture strategy, the GDA is directly contributing to climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts throughout their agricultural supply chains around the world.