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Malawi: Shared decision-making boosts family farming income

It’s about 11 o’clock in the morning and Diffat Chinyama and his wife Lunia are returning home from planting beans in their garden. Mrs. Chinyama prepares lunch, then joins her husband on the veranda where they chat while grading groundnuts.

Mrs. Chinyama tells her husband that the current month of August is the best time to buy farm inputs for the next growing season. Mr. Chinyama looks at his wife and smiles in agreement.

He says, “I am happy that you are always in the forefront, reminding me of what our next farming activity should be. This is the spirit that has made our family to reach this far.”

Mr. and Mrs. Chinyama live in Moto One village in Ntchisi district, about 60 kilometres north of Lilongwe, the capital city of Malawi. The couple usually discuss and make collective decisions on issues like buying farm inputs, harvesting, selling produce, and how to use their farming income.

Mr. Chinyama says that, before 2012, he made almost all the farming decisions without consulting his wife. But after joining Sambakunsi Radio Listening Club—formed with help from Farm Radio Trust—he learned about the importance of involving his wife at every stage of farming, from production to marketing to how to use farming income.

Since then, Mr. Chinyama has consulted his wife on every critical farming decision. He now believes that a woman can contribute positive ideas that improve the family’s economic well-being.

He says, “Since I started involving her in every aspect of our groundnuts farming, production and income increased. We are now able to save some money for development projects.”

Mike Nkhonjera is the extension worker in Ntchisi district. He says that inequitable power in farm decision-making hampers women’s ability to enhance their own well-being and the well-being of their families.

Mr. Nkhonjera adds: “Making decisions together as a family helps to reduce poverty because women play an integral role in food security as well as in utilization of income for the family. Apart from that, women are also a good resource for farming.”

He explains that through the listening clubs, some farmers in the district were trained on gender. This motivated women and men to discuss farming matters and make decisions together—even decisions related to how to use the income from selling farm produce.

Dalia Limbikani is another farmer who is benefitting from shared decision-making. She says that her involvement in decisions has improved their family businesses.

She explains: “We are farmers, but apart from that I also have a shop where I sell different merchandise. For a number of years, finances were controlled by my husband. But after undergoing the gender training in the club together, things changed because he started involving me in the management of funds.”

In 2015, Mrs. Limbikani’s shop had capital of about 70,000 Malawi kwacha ($95 US). Now the shop is worth over 600,000 kwacha ($815 US).

She says: “I have been making more profits from the sales since my husband started involving me—because by working and making plans together as a family, we no longer waste money on petty things like we used to when he was in control of the funds.”

Mrs. Limbikani adds: “From the profits we made in 2018, we jointly agreed to buy a motor bike which currently operates on the road, transporting people from one place to another—and that initiative also brings money to us.”

Mrs. Limbikani says she will continue working together with her husband in both farming and decision-making so that one day they can buy a three-tonne lorry, their family dream car.

Mrs. Chinyama says her family’s income is also increasing because of shared family decision-making. She says their family saves about 150,000 kwacha ($204 US) every year and has started building a corrugated iron sheet house.

She adds, “The house is still under construction and we hope to finish it by next year after selling the produce from next year’s farming.”

Uniterra is a program implemented by CECI-WUSC, working in Malawi with local partners in the tea, legumes and dairy sub-sectors to help youth and women access better economic opportunities. The objective is to reinforce the economic power of women and youth by developing their entrepreneurial spirit. The Uniterra program provided funding and technical support for the production of this story. CECI and WUSC are financially supported by the Government of Canada through Global Affairs Canada, www.international.gc.ca.