Over 60% of women are into farming, but the majority of them grow mainly for consumption and not for business.
Representatives of the African Institute for Corporate Citizenship (AICC) have since sponsored the National Association for Business (NABW) to hold a business Expo in Lilongwe where women farmers are showcasing their products to potential buyers.
AICC Chief Executive officer, Felix Lombe told Capital FM that female farmers need to be supported to form groups that would help them secure big international market for their products.
NABW President, Towera Jalakasi, also pointed out that a lack of skills and markets are some of the barriers that affect women to realise significant profits from agri-business.
Women farmers are the pillars of African agriculture. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation over two thirds of all women in Africa are employed in the agricultural sector and produce nearly 90% of food on the continent. They are responsible for growing, selling, buying and preparing food for their families.
A combination of logistical, cultural, and economic factors, coupled with a lack of gender statistics in the agricultural sector, mean that agricultural programs are rarely designed with women’s needs in mind. As a result, African women farmers have no voice in the development of agricultural policies designed to improve their productivity.
Engagement in policy processes is reserved for government and the literate, but literacy levels are as low as 40% in some African countries. In Malawi female literacy is at a low of 49.8%.
The distinction between crops is sometimes not very clear especially in the case of maize which is a staple crop in several Sub-Saharan African countries as well as a cash crop.[
With the introduction of high yielding varieties of maize, now the distinction is that the high yielding varieties tend to be men’s crop and local varieties are women’s crop.
This pattern has been observed in Malawi where local varieties of maize are woman’s crop while hybrid varieties are cash crops cultivated by men.
The logic is the same: high yielding varieties provide large amount of marketable surplus which allows men to provide cash income while women continue with varieties that provide enough for subsistence consumption.