Women in Malawi have shown they will work to help the country attain food security if given resources. They are doing this through a movement known as the Coalition of Women Farmers, which is trying to empower women to achieve food security. ActionAid International is funding the effort.
A recent survey by ActionAid Malawi to establish the link between women and hunger has established that the women experience food shortages largely because they are denied access to farm resources.
The report says despite the government’s continuing Targeted Input Subsidy Program, the process is male dominated, and many women, specifically those heading households, are not reached.
It says in some cases, officials have told such women that the computer has skipped their names.
Chandiwira Chisi is in charge of the anti-hunger project at the ActionAid International-Malawi. He says It’s against this background that the NGO emphasizes the effects on women, “If you look at the root causes of this hunger, you will find there are deep-rooted cultural practices which are coming in from patriarchal tendencies and patrilineal systems that are advancing these behaviors. We also help them [the women] with advocacy skills to enable them [to] engage with traditional authorities on a continuous basis to advance their issues.”
Chisi says the NGO sometimes provides the farmers with fertilisers and start-up seeds.
He says his organization has also helped women negotiate with traditional leaders on problems facing women in food production.
“Currently in Rumphi [a district in northern Malawi], we have cases where women have successfully managed to convince some traditional leaders to allocate them land in their own right as women. It could be [a] small figure but we think it’s a breakthrough. We never thought they would achieve this in a short period of time,” he says.
Nellipie Ntete is the chairperson of the Coalition of Women Farmers. She says the effort is resolving food shortages at the family level, “We encourage women and girls to engage in farming because (they) are the ones most affected by hunger, despite being the ones who take control of household activities.”
Ntete says about 300 women have been allocated land now for farming. They're encouraged to grow both cash and food crops.
Beatrice Nyirenda is a member of the coalition. She says with proceeds from a rented piece of land on which she grew tobacco she has managed to buy a bicycle and build a four-bedroom house.