Agricultor working next to a sheep Photo by Sujan Sarkar for 2016 CGAP Photo Contest

The Role of Financial Services in Rural Women’s Climate Resilience

Agriculture is the primary activity of economically active women in low-income countries. Women play a vital role in rural economies, particularly in agriculture and food security. They manage farms, raise crops and livestock, sell food in markets, and typically manage food preparation at home. 

Despite their central role in rural economies and global food systems, financial and agricultural service providers have largely overlooked and underserved the specific needs and ambitions of rural women, who face disproportionate threats from climate stresses and shocks compared to men. Gendered social norms also limit their access to resources and opportunities, which hinders their productivity and resilience. 

Equipping rural women with tailored financial and agricultural services can drive increases in food production and household nutrition. They can also increase the service providers’ business performance.

Digitization and innovation have the potential to provide new tools and practices that can help rural women increase agricultural productivity and autonomously adapt to a changing climate. But ensuring that financial and agricultural service providers better address rural women’s needs and ambitions requires a clear articulation of why it makes good business sense for financial and agricultural service providers to better include and serve rural women, while also addressing their climate resilience. CGAP and partners are working on developing the business case for serving rural women, as well as on strengthening the role of innovative digital solutions for savings and credit organizations (SACCOs) and other providers in increasing rural women’s resilience to climate stresses and shocks.


What do we know about rural women? 

The population of rural women in low-income countries is vast and diverse; it also varies according to life stage, livelihood, and cultural context. No single, mass market solution will effectively serve them. Successful service providers recognize this diversity and the effects of gender norms to deliver responsive and tailored solutions.

 

How are digital solutions and innovations transforming the agricultural sector? 

Technologies have the potential to deliver climate-smart financial and non-financial solutions to rural women at scale. Digital solutions and innovations are unlocking livelihood opportunities and providing new tools and practices that can help rural households increase agricultural productivity and autonomously adapt to a changing climate. Given that access to technology and the level of comfort in using it varies from woman to woman, coupling technical innovation with in-person outreach can ensure that more women are reached and served. But because the business case for serving rural women is unclear for financial service providers, rural women are a vastly underserved financial market. 

What is the business case for serving rural women?   

The social impact case for focusing on rural women and climate resilience is clear, but the link to business performance is not. This in turn leaves service providers hesitant to focus on serving rural women with climate-smart services. There is a need to clearly articulate why taking steps to better include and serve rural women, while also addressing their resilience to climate change, makes good business sense. 

CGAP is partnering with IDH to elevate gender-inclusive and climate-smart approaches in agriculture and rural contexts and measure their impact on business performance. Accelerating Business to Empower Rural women1 in Agriculture (ABERA) is a cohort of financial service providers, agribusinesses, and agtechs, organized by CGAP and IDH, with the aim of improving these companies’ inclusion of and impact on rural women in a way that makes business sense. ABERA hones in on how to strengthen rural women’s income, adaptation, and resilience to the accelerating impacts of climate change.