Ridwell Mwanja, 49, is a Community Based Facilitator (CBF) of Witimba Farmer Field School in Chitipa. Mwanja became CBF for Witimba Farmer Field School in 2018, but before that he has been a lead farmer since 2003. Before the KULIMA BETTER project started, Mwanja confesses that he used to do most of the things without consulting his wife because he regarded her as a housewife who is only supposed to do whatever he wanted to do.

“Little did I know that I was missing out more from my wife and we were not making much profit from farming. But after we were trained in gender, I started involving my wife in decision making. This has resulted in improved yields and income because we work as a team from decision to implementation. We are also transparent to one another in terms of the money we make.

“I let my wife decide how we are going to use the money. My children also take part in reminding us our goal and what we need to do,” says Mwanja

Figure 1 Ridwell Mwanja and his wife from T/A Mwabulambiya Chitipa

The household approach aims at empowering household members engaged in farming to have better gender or power relations that will enable them to   have equitable access to and control over resources, assets, and benefits in order to improve their livelihoods. The famer field schools are trained on some gender dynamics and developing a vision for their households which lasts for three years. The members of the household describe where they are now in terms of resources and assets and where they want to be.

In Karonga, Jenala Silungwe 40, testified how her husband who had joined another group had completely changed the way he used to treat her at home. Before the household approach, he would not engage her in having access and control over resources and he would also beat her after getting drunk.

“I thank KULIMA BETTER that we have not only gained knowledge and skills, but it has also changed our men’s thinking, says Silungwe.

Mc Donald Silungwe from Msomba 2 village in Traditional Authority Kilupula in Karonga says he has become a better husband after the training in gender.

“One of the valuable skills I shall treasure in my life is the household approach. I am coming from a culture that treats a woman as a slave because of the lobola system and that had an impact on my life. We are now planning together, and I have also given my wife the power to decide what crop to grow”.

Silungwe is also the centre of people’s attention because he helps his wife with the cooking, something that others look at as abnormal.

KULIMA BETTER is using the Gender Action Learning System (GALS) Approach system with the aim of ensuring that women participate in decision making and have access and control over productive resources.

A recent study conducted by the project in 2021 showed that 27 percent of women jointly make decisions with their husbands regarding crops grown for consumption and 26 percent of women make joint decisions on crops grown for sale. About 23 percent of women can express themselves freely to their husbands concerning household issues and 34 percent of women have opportunities to speak publicly.

The study also revealed that some cultural beliefs are wrongly interpreted ultimately affecting the level of women’s participation in various project activities at household and community level. For instance, lobola is misinterpreted as the act of buying a woman. Lobola, the provision of gifts to the parents of a bride, usually in the form of cash or livestock, is an entrenched part of marriage in parts of Central and Northern part of Malawi.

Through the GALS approach, the project is sensitizing households and communities on the benefits of engaging women in household decision making. Furthermore, the project is working closely with gender champions to ensure that there is joint decision making at both household and community levels.

KULIMA BETTER is funded by European Union and is being implemented by a consortium of Four NGOs namely: Self Help Africa as lead agency, Plan International, Evangelical Association of Malawi, ActionAid Malawi. The aim of the project is to promote sustainable agricultural growth, increase incomes, employment opportunities, food, and nutrition security in Malawi despite changing climatic conditions. The project is currently reaching 380,991 smallholder farmers