Crop diversification has been recommended to women farmers in Malawi as a means to combat the consequences of climate change that the country has been suffering for years.
Dr Judith Kamoto, a lecturer at Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR), said crop diversification provides smallholder farmers with a variety of diets, improves their income, and ensures their nutrition security during an Independent Dialogue on Gender Equality for Food Systems Transformation in Malawi held at Ufulu Garden in Lilongwe on Friday.
The event was organized by the Malawi Irish Consortium on Gender-Based Violence (MICGBV) in collaboration with the Irish Forum for International Agricultural Development (IFIAD). It brought together various key players in the agriculture sector.
“When crop diversification is fully embraced it can as a result contribute significantly to livelihood, improved health and nutrition, household food security and climate resilience among other things,” said Kamoto.
However, Kamoto, who is also a gender expert, hailed Trocaire Malawi and other various organizations that are focusing much on empowering women in as far as agriculture is concerned saying women are always disadvantaged.
“Training women to attain skills that improve their agriculture activities and empower them economically is very significant. Society should understand that women can also make a positive impact in the agriculture sector and the development of the country as well. Let women also be decision-makers in as far as agriculture is concerned,” she said.
She said there is also a need for men to contribute the same by making sure that women are not burdened with both domestic chores and production activities in the farms but rather responsibilities should be shared at all levels.
Trocaire Malawi Country Director and MICGBV chairperson, Jeannette Wijnants, said they have trained women in crop diversification among other things because they understand the capacity that women have at both household and national development.
Wijnants said investing in women farmers is one of the most effective strategies for reducing extreme poverty and hunger, yet women are seldom targeted effectively or reached by agricultural investments.
“We also aim to devise solutions on rural women’s empowerment in food systems, how to bridge the gender technology gap in the sector, and amplify women’s voices and decision making in food systems,” she said.
Sharing her experience, Mary Jeffrey from Zomba said since she started crop diversification she is now able to properly take care of her family in terms of food security.
“I used to grow maize on the small piece of land that I have, and I have always had problems due to poor harvest each and every year, after training in crop diversification, I am now able to harvest enough for food and even for sale.
“I grow maize, groundnuts, vegetables and wheat on the same land, something that I was not doing but now I realize it is a way to go. I am now able to send my children to school and also buy other necessities at home using the money being realized after sales of my produce,” she said.
Jeffrey appealed to the government to create good markets for their produce.