DEPLETED BY DEBT? FOCUSING A GENDERED LENS ON CLIMATE RESILIENCE, CREDIT, AND NUTRITION IN TRANSLOCAL CAMBODIA AND SOUTH INDIA

Lead Research Organisation: Royal Holloway, University of London
Department Name: Geography

Abstract

Small-scale credit is exalted in mainstream development thinking as a key means of supporting women and their families in dealing with daily, ongoing, and often slow-onset climate disasters. Facing growing crises of agricultural productivity from droughts and floods, and taking primary responsibility for the nutritional wellbeing of their households, women are targeted as credit borrowers globally. Credit provisioning therefore speaks to the push for 'resilience' against climate disasters that is central to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 13, 'Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts', and which has serious implications for SDG 5 'Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls' that prioritises the valuing and recognition of women's unpaid care and domestic work. How do we ensure, then, that 'climate resilience' does not come at the cost of women's emotional and bodily depletion through processes of household nutrition provisioning? This is the key concern motivating this two-year project which asks:

(1) In what ways is credit, as a form of climate resilience, shaping nutritional provisioning?

(2) How are the dynamics of nutrition provisioning and credit-taking in a changing climate being experienced and visualised?

(3) What are the gender and social reproductive dynamics of the climate-credit-nutrition nexus?

(4) What lessons can be learned to deliver improved and more equitable credit provisioning and nutritional outcomes to households and communities affected by slow-onset climate disasters?

The project's methodology is anchored in environmental science, visual arts, and social science methods which are combined into a well-integrated research design to effectively probe these complex questions. Set within the political economy contexts of Cambodia and Tamil Nadu, India, fieldwork encompasses the collection of environmental profiles, socio-economic and nutritional indicators, measurements of energy expenditure, and oral and visual analysis; all through a lens that foregrounds gender dynamics. In each country, research will be carried out in 3 rural villages and 2 industrial worksites given that rural households are often maintained by labour migrants engaged in non-rural work.

The 20-strong interdisciplinary team of investigators, consultants, and a seconded UN Women staff member, from Cambodia, India, the UK, and continental Europe, will work together with non-governmental and private sector project partners, and an advisory board of (non)academic experts, to deliver this ground-breaking research. The project will also foster the research excellence and development of 7 early career researchers, the majority of whom are women, and/or black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME). Mentorship includes two early-career residential writing retreats, one in Cambodia and one in India, to support the development of publication writing skills and confidence.

The research will be published across 10 journal articles, an accessibly-written project report, and 6 policy briefs (in English, Khmer, and Tamil) which will bring together (non)-academics from 6 stakeholder workshops to amplify the integrated research findings and enhance policy impact. A unique and compelling exhibition of participant and artist photography will also be shown in Phnom Penh, Chennai, and London, to promote the research to a wider audience still. The exhibition will act as a space for the project report launch, galvanise media interest, and will be timed during the stakeholder workshops to maximise impact on political, developmental, and private sector decision-makers.

Ultimately, given the status accorded to small-scale credit as a significant lever in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, our research is crucial to informing its thinking on, and operationalisation of, gender-equitable climate resilience.

Planned Impact

The project develops policy-relevant analysis to facilitate more gender-equitable credit provisioning as a tool of climate resilience amongst rural communities in Cambodia, India, and beyond. It has been designed principally to ensure that multi-faceted perspectives from indebted rural households are elevated alongside other forms of data collection, and so that beneficiary voices are central to analysis and subsequent policy work.

Furthermore, relevant academics and user organisations are foregrounded within to research design and implementation. To achieve this, the team brings together an interdisciplinary group of scholars from Cambodia, India, the UK, and continental Europe, with development practitioners and researchers from UN WOMEN in Cambodia, and the National Institute of Rural Development and Development of Humane Action (DHAN) Foundation in India. We have planned for dialogue among researchers and stakeholders from the outset of the project via two in-country Pre-Fieldwork Workshops, and an All-Project Workshop to synthesise the research findings and plan our outputs and impact activities.

The impact of our research will also be enhanced further by:

(1) Regular blogs and podcasts which will make for a dynamic project website, and a dedicated Twitter account to build the presence of our research.

(2) A Dedicated media strategy to accompany the launch of the report in Cambodia, India, and London, including local context-specific press releases for different aspects of the research findings, a curated set of images for media use, and team members ready to undertake broadcast interviews where necessary.

(3) An accessibly-written project report, in English, Khmer, and Tamil, with forewords from high-profile policy actors which will set out the key findings and policy recommendations of the research, including for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These will also feature participant and artist photography.

(4) Local community showcasing of participants' Photovoice research to foreground their experiences and needs to individuals within their communities who wield the power to make decisions that can affect positive change.

(5) An exhibition of participants' Photovoice and artists' photography shown in Phnom Penh, Chennai, and London. This will not only raise the profile of participants' experiences, but also the careers of artists Sophal Neak and Chinar Shah. The exhibition will act as a catalyst for the project report launch, galvanise media interest, and will be timed during the stakeholder workshops to maximise its audience and impact. The exhibition in each city will provide public audiences with an intimate and nuanced understanding of climate resilience, credit, and nutrition in specific relation to the GCRF project. It will therefore make a research and impact-informed case for arts and humanities having a critical role to play in understanding and tackling global challenges.

(6) Invited presentations to research users (and project partners) including the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Cambodia, and the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) Annual Conference which brings together 800+ credit union executives from 60 countries. This will allow for high-level engagement with policy stakeholders, with a view to engendering impacts beyond Cambodia and India alone.

(7) 6 in-country stakeholder workshops and policy briefs to enhance dialogue amongst research users in-country. Workshops are co-hosted with our non-academic project partners and will stimulate interactive and integrative learning across the climate-credit-nutrition nexus amongst key government, (I)NGO and private sector decision-makers. They will also be rooted in the national and local policy context, therefore ensuring that subsequent outputs are tailored and optimised for in-country impact.

Publications

10 25 50