Cornell’s collaboration with the international humanitarian agency CARE was recently awarded a $200,000 grant to pursue its research focusing on the relationship between climate resilience and gender equity in Niger.
The grant was bestowed by the David R. Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future and CARE USA through the Innovation for Impact Fund, which will finance the collaboration for 18 months.
According to Liz Bageant ’10 M.S. ’14, a research support specialist, this type of funding “is highly unusual.”
“There tends not to be a lot of fundraising support for developing proposals — IIF gives us the opportunity to take time to develop our research,” Bageant said.
Since 2011, the University has worked together with CARE to address problems such as hunger, maternal and infant health and climate change, according to a University press release. A Cornell-CARE brochure calls the collaboration a space “where research meets practice.”
Christopher Barrett, deputy dean and dean of academic affairs for the SC Johnson College of Business, and Mara Russell, director for food resilience and women’s empowerment at CARE, will lead the collaboration.
Bageant and Joanna Upton Ph.D. ’14, another researcher in the program, traveled to Niamey, Niger in January, where they looked into the logistics of implementing index-based livestock insurance, according to a University press release.
The insurance, which uses satellite-based climate data to provide payments to farmers facing inclement climate conditions, has been successfully implemented in Kenya and Ethiopia over the past 10 years, Upton told The Sun.
The researchers also embarked on their trip to gain insight for their upcoming research, which will examine the relationship between climate resilience and women’s empowerment.
The concept of climate resilience isn’t a new one, according to Upton.
“It’s a reframing to understand that poverty is not a static thing,” Upton said. “People might be poor today, but they differ in their ability to respond to a shock to the ecosystem.”
A shock can be any unforeseen, catastrophic event, such as a long drought or an unexpected death in the family, according to Upton. Measuring resilience to such shocks, Upton said, involves “taking a wellbeing measure and seeing how it recovers over time.”
Upton added that although many have attempted to address it, the question of how to accurately measure the related concept of women’s empowerment is still debatable,
“Similar to resilience, everyone is talking about women’s empowerment … but there isn’t a metric that is agreed upon,” Bageant explained.
In Niger, levels of women’s empowerment can be evaluated by looking at a variety of components, including “access to productive assets, like capital … or having complete control over the land that she farms on … and literacy,” Upton said.
The relationship between women’s empowerment and resilience is one that, according to Upton, remains largely anecdotal. “Women’s empowerment can have a huge impact in how resources are used in a household,” she said.
The IIF grant will allow the researchers in the team to “devote time to working out and doing shorter term analysis given the data, and work out a longer-term study” for around 5 years, Bageant said.