A 2012 World Bank analysis of Azerbaijan’s climate found that the southern region is especially vulnerable to climate change, which has troubling implications for the Azerbaijani economy as a whole, and specifically for women farmers and their families. Nearly 40 percent of jobs in Azerbaijan are in the agricultural sector, according to the latest available statistics. Women make up nearly half of all farmers in the country, and they are particularly vulnerable to any threats to the sector.
Studies have shown that women and men experience climate change impacts differently due to traditional gender roles and responsibilities. Rural women are especially vulnerable because they depend more than men on ecosystem services (such as water, forests, pasture lands, tillage, rainfall) for food security. When climate change limits access and resources, men flee villages for urban jobs in cities. But in Azerbaijan, most women stay behind and take care of households. Because of the systemic and cultural discrimination, most women do not own their own land, and usually they have less access to resources, education and information. In addition, rural women farmers are typically excluded from decision making (as agricultural enterprises, they are less likely to have management positions), both inside and outside their households.
Currently, 34 rural communities in Azerbaijan are especially vulnerable to climate change, especially since local women do not have sufficient resources and knowledge to adapt their crops to the changing environment.
Mirvari Jafarova, 58, a farmer for over two decades in the village of Separadi, has already felt the impact of climate change. “For the last two years, there has been no snow on the fields in winter and in spring, during the planting period, heavy rains ruined vast chunk of the rice crops we cultivated. Winters without snow is pretty unusual for me, as I have grown in this village and have seen all years snow on the ground, which is necessary for crop yields,” she said.
Last year Mirvari and Sakina lost more than half (around 4 tons) of the rice they planted. As farming is the only source of income, the families felt the loss dearly.
The two women now believe they have to move away from traditional crops and begin to diversify what they plant in order to survive. “We farmers hope for the best and count on nature’s mercy after planting seeds,” Mirvari said.
In an effort to adapt to climate change, last year Sakina decided to diversify her farming practices. “I planted potato seeds with my son in our own village. Nevertheless, due to intensified rains, all of our 150 kg harvest went to waste,” she said.
Today both women are supplementing their income as seasonal workers on other farms, hoping to earn enough to make up for the lost crops.