The United Nations (UN) Women has bemoaned underinvestment in women in Malawi’s agricultural sector, urging government to formulate gender-responsive policies and supportive legal framework to reverse the situation.
The international body has also exposed a huge gender gap in agricultural productivity in Malawi, saying reducing such a gap may help the country reduce poverty levels and improve nutrition among most Malawians.
UN Women Malawi senior adviser Helen Buluma made the revelations yesterday at Nkopola Lodge in Mangochi during the Economics Association of Malawi (Ecama) annual conference through her presentation titled “Enhancing the role of women in agriculture as a conduit for sustainable economic development in Malawi”.
In Malawi, women account for 70 percent of the labour force in the agriculture sector and represent a total of 52 percent of the national population.
According to Buluma, Malawi’s key challenges facing women in agriculture include poor access to land, poor access to farm inputs, lack of access to credit and financial services and poor access to extension services, training, information and technology.
“Women generally have less farming land than men. However, women’s potential in enhancing agricultural productivity remains untapped,” she lamented, quoting a latest UN Women report on Malawi’s gender exclusion in agriculture.
She advised government to speed up the enactment of a land law to ensure that women have land security tenure and use that land productively.
According to her, private sector, development partners, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) should also consider closing the prevailing huge gender gap in the agricultural sector.
“Government, banks and other financial institutions have a critical role to play in this regard. Banks should not shun away from developing innovative women in agriculture,” she recommended. products targeting smallholder
Buluma also stated that investment in women’s agriculture is necessary in the short and medium term to transform Malawi’s agricultural sector for sustainable economic growth.
By closing the gender gap, Buluma said Malawi would increase her gross domestic product (GDP) by $100 million (about K58 million)and lift 238 000 people out of poverty.
However, reacting to her presentation, some participants noted that promoting women in agriculture in Malawi has for the past years faced a strong resistance due to cultural barriers and women overreliance on men in several aspects including financial support.
The Ecama meet was being held under the theme Agricultural Transformation and Value Chain Development For Sustainable Economic Growth. n