Malawi can lift an estimated 238 000 people out of poverty and increase its crop output by 7.3 percent by closing the gender gap in agriculture productivity, the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) has said.
In its July 2021 Gender Equality, Social Inclusion and Resilience in Malawi discussion paper authored by Emma Lovell and developed as part of the Building Resilience and Adapting to Climate Change Programme, ODI says closing the gender gap, estimated at 28 percent, would increase the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) by $100 million (about K820 billion) and its agriculture GDP by $90 million (about K73 billion).
Malawi’s nominal GDP after rebasing is at $10.9 billion (K8.1 trillion).
Reads the paper in part: “While women and men may work together to grow crops, once the fruits of their labour is sold, women tend to have minimal influence over the resulting cash, which may dissuade them from engaging in the production of cash crops as women may not believe that they will see any benefit from their efforts.
“Nevertheless, promoting climate smart agriculture programmes, which target women and help to close the gender gap in agricultural productivity—alongside further measures such as enhancing access to land and other resources, and confronting negative social norms in agriculture—have been suggested to help enhance gender equality, improve intergenerational nutrition, education and health outcomes and help lift people out of poverty.”
A recent Gender Equality and Social Inclusion from the Promoting Sustainable Partnerships for Empowered Resilience Programme in Malawi analysis shows that women constitutes 70 percent of the agricultural labour force and produce 80 percent of the agricultural produce for consumption and sale.
The analysis shows that limited access to land, labour, inputs and credit makes women more likely to engage in low-productivity subsistence agriculture and income generating activities with low returns.
In an interview yesterday, agriculture policy expert Tamani Nkhono-Mvula said a lot needs to be done to increase benefits for women in the sector as they provide most of the labour.
He said: “In the smallholder sector, for instance, 70 percent of labour is provided by woman, but if you look at their access to extension services, it is low at 15 percent for women.
“On the other hand, the gender development index in Malawi is at 0.374, their land holding size for women-headed household is at 0.8 per hectare while their poverty reference is 51 percent. These are not in favour of women. If we want to get more, target women who are directly involved in food production and raising children.”
Agriculture accounts for 30 percent of the country’s GDP and generates over 80 percent of national export earnings, according to National Statistical Office.
The agriculture sector employs 64 percent of the country’s workforce and contributes to food and nutrition security.