Women smallholder farmers demand inclusion in climate change adaptation programmes

The Coalition of Women Farmers (COWFA) has petitioned the Mchinji District Council, demanding that the Government of Malawi should recruit adequate agriculture extension development officers (AEDOs) and involve them in climate change adaptation programs.

The smallholder women farmers delivered their petition on Tuesday during an interface meeting between representatives of the women farmers and duty-bearers from Mchinji District Council.

Prosperina Nyambose (Standing) reading out the petition

The interface meeting was held at Kapiri Community Development Organization (KACODO) office.

The meeting received financial support from ActionAid Malawi, through the Partnership for Social Accountability Alliance (PSA) project, which seeks to address issues of social accountability, especially gender responsive public service delivery in agriculture and health.

The smallholder women farmers said the inadequacy of AEDOs in the district is reportedly depriving women smallholder farmers of climate change adaptation farming technics, leading to loss of crops and livelihoods.

The women smallholder farmers during the interface meeting

Presenting the petition, COWFA Secretary in Mchinji, Prospelina Nyambose, called upon the government to intervene, saying lack of advice on climate change adaptation farming technics is adversely affecting women smallholder farmers, plunging most of them into poverty.

“We are illiterate. For instance, we do not know what to do when rains delay or when rains fall too much or when there is a drought. Even if we have some ideas about what we can do, we do not know how to do it better in order to save our land and crops. The result is loss. No benefit.

“We need more agriculture extension development officers to provide practical expertise and direction so that we can continue benefiting amidst the devastating effects of climate change,” said Nyambose.

According to information from the Mchinji agriculture office, there are seven Extension Planning Areas (EPAs), 90 sections and 54 AEDOs in the district.

The sections, in particular, were reportedly established in the early 1990s, based on a ratio of one AEDO to 500 people.

However, currently, one AEDO covers two or three sections, serving about 5000 people in each section, a situation which is denying other people access to AEDOs.

Senior Assistant Land Resource Conservation Officer in Mchinji, Rhoda Njikho, concurred with COWFA, saying more AEDOs are indeed required to ensure that women smallholder farmers are resilient to effects of climate change.

She disclosed that the number of AEDOs has remained minimal because most of them left the profession due to, among others, poor housing, mobility challenges and lack of motivation.

“The women smallholder farmers are raising a big and genuine concern. However, it is encouraging that they themselves now feel the urge of having more agriculture extension development officers. This has created a demand driven need for AEDOs, which is a basis for us to press for recruitment of these officers by the authorities,” said Njikho.

Technical Project Officer on Agriculture for PSA project at ActionAid Malawi, Hannah Chidaya, called upon the government to help the women smallholder farmers.

“Government must draw plans, programs and allocate funds to support climate change adaptation and resilience for women farmers. Government must respond to these concerns so that agriculture service delivery is favourable to women smallholder farmers,” said Chidaya.

Vice Chairperson for Mchinji District Council, Councillor Henry Nyamaulo, promised to “deliver” the women smallholder farmers’ petition to relevant authorities.

The interface meeting at KACODO reportedly came as part of the EarthWalk campaign to demand climate justice ahead of the 26th United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), which will be hosted by the United Kingdom (UK) at the Scottish Events Campus in Glasgow from 1-12 November, 2021.

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