How is gender investigated in African climate change research: a systematic review of the literature


Siera Vercillo


Research Fellow

Faculty of Social Sciences

University of Waterloo

Siera is an Adjunct Professor in Environment and Development at the University of Waterloo ,and Postdoctoral Fellow in Food Studies at the University of Toronto Scarborough. Her research is in feminist geography, political ecology, critical agrarian, food and development studies.


Key Takeaways

    How To Apply Insights

    • We need to focus on asking new questions that go beyond the individual/household level and focus on institutions and structures- to include political & economic actors
    • Research questions should be based on the values and mental models of the people in the context being studied; formulated in Africa rather than the global north.
    • A wider range of methods should be used with more nuanced views of gender- not just a comparison of men vs women’s perceptions, knowledge & vulnerabilities but in terms of relational power dynamics. Develop an intersectional analysis of different types of men and women
    • Research should go beyond analysis of local practices & adaptations and investigate (global) institutions that are contributing the environmental changes & climate difficulties
    • More gender & climate research is needed on key areas: land conflict, coastal regions, education, energy, migration, urban areas and water; and in underrepresented countries:Somalia, CAR, Eritrea, DR Congo, Guinea-Bissau

    Why This Research Matters

    A systematic review to asses the major findings/themes found in literature around gender & climate change in Africa, and identify biases & gaps for further research.

    Findings & Research Conclusions

    There is a focus/bias in this research on 10 particular countries: Ghana, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi & South Africa. Some very populous countries are missing: Egypt, Algeria, Sudan, Morocco, etc.

    This is probably in part due to English not being a main language in these countries, among other reasons.

    Some countries like Somalia, CAR, Eritrea, DR Congo, Guinea-Bissau are dramatically missing from the research, but are ranked among the most vulnerable to climate change in the ND Gain Index, and have the least capacity to respond to a changing climate.

    Research on the topic took off around 2013, so is quite recent. Under half is available open access. Research institutions on the African continent that aren’t subscribed to the major research databases will not have access to the literature.

    The majority of studies are conducted at the local level; comparative case studies within communities are particularly popular, as opposed to regional/continental/global levels The methods that are most commonly used are survey data & individual interviews. Funding for this research comes largely from federal/national agencies of countries in the global north: USAID, the EU, Germany, DFID, IDRC. Consequently, there may be a bias/constraint to the type of research being pursued & types of questions asked.

    Research's methodology

    Systematic review; keyword search in web of science for all literature published until 2019 (conducted in 2020).  260 articles analysed in-depth on themes and focuses.


    English language search; studies in French and Arabic were not included

    Gender differentiationThe ways that different people interact with the environment based on their gender; based on their knowledge, experience, roles, responsibilities, norms, values & rights to resources. The environment is socially and politically derived
    Critical feminist lensViewing gender roles and norms not only as they are but power laden in ways they could be transformed to be more justice-oriented

    Reference this research

    Vercillo S, Huggins C, Cochrane L. (2022) ‘How is gender investigated in African climate change research? A systematic review of the literature’. Ambio.  Apr;51(4):1045-1062.

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