An assesment of women empowerment among female lead farmers : case of Dowa district,in Malawi
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Women empowerment in agriculture is of great significance to the development discourse. Gender is an important aspect in agricultural research and in rural development. Thus, this research edifies to knowledge as it examines if and how the lead farmer extension model has socially and economically empowered female lead farmers. This mixed approach research targets female lead farmers from Dowa, Chibvala Extension Planning Area (EPA) in Malawi. Out of one hundred female lead farmers in Chibvala EPA fifty-five were randomly selected using stratified random sampling for quantitative data. Twenty-two were purposively selected for qualitative data. Five key informant interviews were conducted with three extension officers, the headman of Chibvala and community development chairperson. Chibvala EPA was purposively selected for the study because Development Fund of Norway (DF) is funding the Sustainable Agriculture Lead Farmer Project (SALFP) implemented by Trustees of Agriculture Promotion Programme (TAPP) under the project Capacity Building for Managing Climate Change (CABMACC). The study uses Women Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI) as its analytical framework which is far less studied; and which uses specific indices for agriculture. The indices for analysis were production, time, leadership, income and resources. The quantitative results reveal strong trends of change in the production domain with 82% of female lead farmers exercising sole or joint decision making, although autonomy still lacks. On resources 36.4 % solely owned assets with farm equipment and livestock as the most owned assets. On income 81.9 % had control over household expenditure. while 56.4 % did not have control over income from their cash crops. On time domain there was a significant change of time use female lead farmers got assistance from their husbands and children to do farming and household chores respectively. However, the role of being a lead farmer also comes with additional work load, as such female lead farmers do not have time for leisure. On leadership most, female lead farmers belonged to social and economic groups were they also held leadership positions. Although female lead farmers have been empowered in the above dimensions they still exist many challenges. These challenges among others include conflict among follow and lead farmer, few male follow farmers, lack of regular follow ups by extension officers and more trainings, loss of livestock, transport and market problems.