Climate Change, Agrarian Distress, and the Feminization of Agriculture in South Asia*

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Agrarian distress—the experience wherein sustaining an agricultural livelihood becomes increasingly challenging—is well documented in South Asia. Another regional trend is the feminization of agriculture or an increase in women's work and decision-making in agriculture. Scholars have recently linked these two phenomena, demonstrating that agrarian distress results in the movement of men out of agriculture, driving women into the sector. Yet what remains underexplored is the relationship between climate change, a contributor to agrarian distress, and the feminization of agriculture. To examine this, we link socioeconomic and demographic data from India, Bangladesh, and Nepal to high-resolution gridded climate data. We then estimate a set of multivariate regression models to explore linkages between recent temperature and precipitation variability from historical norms and the likelihood that a woman works in agriculture. Results suggest that hotter-than-normal conditions in the year prior to the survey are associated with an increased likelihood of working in agriculture among women. This relationship is particularly strong among married women and women with less than primary education. While more research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms between climate change and the feminization of agriculture, our findings suggest a need for gender-sensitive climate change adaptation strategies.




Southard, E. M. L., & Randell, H. (2022). Climate Change, Agrarian Distress, and the Feminization of Agriculture in South Asia*. Rural Sociology, 87(3), 873–900.

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