5 Minutes of Inspiration: Why no increase in production is a huge win in Malawi

By Team: Authors 21st Oct 2016
Evelyn Chimimba, a widowed mother of 8 children, is still managing to harvest some crops this year, despite the drought in Malawi Evelyn Chimimba, a widowed mother of 8 children, is still managing to harvest some crops this year, despite the drought in Malawi

Looking at the endline data for Pathways Malawi might be disheartening if you didn’t know the whole story. Production numbers for women farmers showed no statistically significant increase. Does that mean we failed? No. Other farmers in the same district saw their production drop by up to 50%. Staying constant is actually a huge win.

El Nino in Southern Africa has put more than 40 million people at risk of hunger and malnutrition, and the women in Pathways Malawi are not on that list. Instead, they’re using a combination of better agricultural techniques, savings, access to markets, and diversifying their income to make sure that their families can weather this crisis.

More importantly, the women are standing up for themselves, and getting involved in the decisions that protect their families. It’s an impressive accomplishment, for those women, and for the programme.

What did we accomplish?

  • Increased income: Household income went up 76%, from $11.40 a month to $20.08. Households were also able to spend 38% more every month. Women’s income from agriculture improved 53%.
  • Better diets: Dietary diversity went up 13%, so families are able to have more balanced diets every day. Women also got more balanced diets – seeing an increase of 9%.
  • More resilience to climate change: Families are 31% more likely to be using savings to deal with shocks – which is incredibly important in the face of the massive El Nino drought they are having. They are also 2.6 times more likely to be using drought-tolerant crops.
  • More household assets: Families own twice as many assets as before, which can help cushion in emergencies. Land ownership was particularly important – it more than doubled from 2 acres at baseline to 4.3 at endline. The number of women who could control land went up 16%.
  • More empowered women: The number of women who were empowered according to CARE’s Women’s Empowerment Index went up 38%, and the average empowerment score increased by 10%. Women are 28% more able to control income than they were before Pathways.

How did we get there?

  • Get women access to tools and information: Women’s access to financial services went up 21%, and their access to agricultural inputs increased by 10%. The number of women using improved seeds (drought tolerant or higher yield) nearly doubled. All of the focus groups mentioned that improved access to information was one of the most important benefits they received.
  • Teach good agricultural practices: Women’s use of improved agricultural practices went up 49%, with especially big jumps in improved seeds and post-harvest practices that mean they lose less food. There was a 65% increase in women producing their own organic fertilizer so that they could improve their practices without spending more money.
  • Help women access markets: Women’s access to markets so they could sell their crops for higher prices went up 50%, and 63% of women could access markets by the end of the project.

Want to learn more?

Check out the Pathways to Empowerment website or the final program evaluation (Malawi Pathways Endline Study).

Emily Janoch

Emily Janoch is Senior Technical Advisor on Knowledge Management for the CARE USA Food and Nutrition Security team focusing on ways to better learn from and share practical experience on eradicating poverty through empowering women and girls. She focuses on learning from programming and using that learning to improve impact.

With four years of on-the-ground experience in West Africa, 10 years of development experience, and academic publications on community engagement and the human element in food security in Africa, Emily is especially interested in community-led development. She has experience in food security, nutrition, health, governance, and gender programming, and has a BA in International Studies from the University of Chicago, and a Masters' in Public Policy in International and Global Affairs from the Harvard Kennedy School.

Email: ejanoch@care.org