Farmers in the country, mostly in the twelve districts where the Agriculture Sector Wide Approach Support Project (ASWAp-SPII) is being implemented, have parted ways with the old tendency of making decisions or taking actions in agriculture production basing on one’s gender; credit to the project for intervening with gender mainstreaming initiatives.
In the promotion of gender equity and equality among farming households, ASWAp-SP II has managed to ensure that women and men have equal access to and control over resources, benefits and decision-making at all stages of agricultural production.
Georgina Mikael of Nkhwazi Model village in the area of Traditional Authority Kapondo in Mchinji district says ASWAp-SP II has taught her not to be on the receiving end, but ensure that with her husband they do all farming activities together as a couple.
“ASWAp-SP II has taught us that when crossing a river, we should not be carried at the back, but instead we hold each other’s hand so that we see together where to step our feet on, thereby enabling us to cross the river on our own. That is why my husband and I work and make decisions together,” she explains.
“Working together as a couple helps to have an equal workload and that no one overworks than the partner. This is very important in a family. I am also happy that my husband understands better the gender concept. He is now able to do with me several household chores such as cooking, cleaning dishes and cleaning the house,” she added.
Her husband Mathew Mikael says he is delighted with ASWAp-SP II’s lessons on gender equality in a farming household. He added that working together has helped his family to increase their income due to combined efforts that have resulted in increased productivity. The two decide together on the size of land to cultivate, the varieties to grow and market decisions.
Previously in most rural farming households here in Malawi women used to do relatively more work and worked more hours than men.
For instance, a couple could go and work on equal portions in the crop field but thereafter, as the husband is resting, the woman had to continue with collecting fuel, fetching water, preparing food, caring for the children and maintaining the home.
Mathew concedes such a discriminatory distribution of household roles based on gender which he attributes to societal misconceptions.
“In the past, I used to think that domestic chores such as cooking, collecting firewood, taking care of children and cleaning the house belonged to women. But ASWAp-SP II has helped to remove such a perception. Now my wife and I work together in all these activities,” he said.
The Mikael family is just one of the many families from Nkhwazi model village in Mchinji whose agricultural productivity has gone up by working together as couples. The families work together in both rain-fed season and irrigation farming activities. They have equitable access to farming resources. The couples also make marketing decisions together.
In the strengthening and implementation of innovative agricultural extension and advisory services, ASWAp-SP II supports gender mainstreaming using approaches and tools that encourage improved gender relations at the household level such as the Household approach.