Women and Men and Agriculture

As with everything else, gender roles are very rigid in agriculture. They are not the same globally: in some countries, taking care of livestock is a man’s job; in some it’s a woman’s. In one place, a certain crop is cultivated by predominately women; in another place it’s grown by men. Sometimes, women add value to products through cheesemaking, preservation of crops or fish, brewing beer, etc, and take them to the markets, in other countries this is done by men.Sometimes, these roles vary even between regions within a country. Women and men around the world participate almost equally in agricultural but they do not always have equal access to inputs, resources, services, and knowledge. Which of course prevents them from making the most out of their livelihoods and makes the sector use scarce resources such as water and land in a suboptimal manner. Plus countries are not growing and poverty is not decreasing as fast as they could. Last week, I participated as a discussant in this webinar on gender in agricultural risk management, where we talked about some of these issues and how to reach both men and women to better manage agricultural risks.

Women Malawi

Two impressive female farmers in Malawi that are part of a cooperative. They are responsible for the irrigation pump behind them, which completely changed the business for the cooperative as they now can grow seeds and high-value horticulture. The two women asked me to take the photo of them after showing me the pumping mechanism, so I take the liberty of posting the photo here.

Stop No 2: Lilongwe

My next trip was to Malawi. It’s one of my favorite countries but this time, I was just there to present our findings from our agriculture risk management work, so I just stayed in Lilongwe. But it was nice to see my colleagues and I had some good discussions with different institutions and organizations. Other than my presentations, I had a lot of work to finish by end-May so it was one of those weeks when my work day stretched from eight in the morning to past midnight. But I managed to pick up my favorite tea (Chombe) and have nsima (a maize dish like mamaliga, or like polenta but less watery, but made of white maize) before I got on the flight over to Central Asia.

Malawi landscape view

Malawi house in field

Malawi bike

Sobo Soda Malawi

Sobo soda – a favorite among Malawians! I think it’s grape but not sure… But lots of sugar!

Kids

I think I wrote in an earlier post that kids are always the same regardless of where you are in the world. Regardless of if they have a carefree childhood or if they have to grow up too quickly, they love attention and especially from adults. Once in Antigua, Guatemala, this little six or seven-year old boy came up to me and wanted me to buy jewelry that he was selling. I said I wasn’t interested but instead of walking over to the next person in the park, he sat down next to me on the bench where I was sitting and so I started asking him a little about himself. And he just talked and talked and talked about this and that; telling me his big and small ideas for over twenty minutes before he remembered that he was supposed to work and slid down from the bench, said good bye and took his box with jewelry and moved on.

At the same time kids seem to live in a world of their own. There is always something going on in their heads that they often seem to want communicate. Now that I started carrying my camera with me, I especially see it in the pictures I’ve taken in Malawi. It’s also funny because few people in Malawi have phones with cameras and many don’t even have phones at all, but every kid that I’ve met there, even in the most remote villages, have learned that phones mean taking a photo and that they get to see themselves on the screen. So they are always eager to get in front of the camera every time I pull out my phone. Here are a few of the kids that eagerly goofed around in front of the lens on my last trip:

children malawi

children malawi

children malawi

children malawi

Under A Kachere Tree…

I’ve spent many hours under trees like this past week in Malawi. A Kachere Tree symbolizes unity of the village and the community meets in the shade under its branches to discuss issues in the village and to settle disputes. As for me, I listened to what farmers saw as their greatest challenges to adopting improved agricultural technologies and practices, and although there were few disagreements between the discussants, it was definitely very interesting!

kachere tree malawi

Another Visist to Malawi

As I indicated in my past posts, I’m in Malawi again and just as last time I was here back in March, I’m here for work. The last time I was here, the team I led got to do most of the traveling, while I stayed in Lilongwe and in the Central Region. This time, I traveled a lot more and went around South and Central Malawi together with two colleagues for about a week. We saw a lot of villages in the different districts and stayed over night in Blantyre (Malawi’s largest city and commercial center), Zomba, and Salima on Lake Malawi. Although I enjoy working in Lilongwe, it was great getting to see more of the country and also to talk to more farmers – one of the most interesting parts of my work. Here are a few pics:

River Malawi

Boats Malawi

Everyday Life Malawi

Children Lake Malawi

Rice Field Malawi

Sunset Malawi

 

 

Dedza Pottery and Lodge

After meeting a group of farmers on Saturday, I invited my team for coffee and cheese cake at the Dedza Pottery and Lodge. My Malawian colleague on the team told me about it (including their famous cheesecake) and it was really worth a visit. The grounds hold a cafe that served good coffee and pastry in a beautiful and peaceful environment, along with a ceramic workshop where you can buy goods off the shelf or order personally designed ceramics. I can really recommend a stop for anyone who is traveling through Malawi.

Dedza Malawi

Dedza Malawi

Dedza Malawi

Dedza Malawi

Dedza Malawi

My First Visit to Malawi

Another journey has come to an end. I write journey and not trip, because most my travel is indeed journeys. I see so much and meet so many people, and I grow every time. Which I guess travel ought to be, but for many end up being more shopping excursions or recuperation on a beach or on a mountain. I put no value in it, I often long for recuperation travel but I always end up on some sort of journey (not counting my series of New York or Stockholm visits, because that’s just home).

This particular journey consisted of two weeks in Malawi. Just like when I went to Rwanda, I was in Malawi to look at risks to the agricultural sector. Over the past two weeks, I have met with farmers, public agricultural institutions, donors, and other participants in the sector, and discussed weather volatilities, price fluctuations, agricultural pests and diseases, unintentional herbicide contamination, crop thefts post harvest and in field, hippos and elephants eating crops and marching through the fields, crocodiles attacking farmers, and probably any other risk that comes to mind. Malawi has gone through periods of food shortages and is therefore more than aware of the devastating impacts that risks can have, yet minimizing the impacts of risks is challenging when most people are subsistence farmers and food and output markets are still in their infancy.

As always, I didn’t do much except working while I was there but since I went around the Central Region to speak to farmers and extension workers, I got to see a bit of the country (though not as much as the rest of my team, who went down South for four days). And Malawi is beautiful! Green flourishing, and hilly in some places and flatter in other. What really struck me is the maize that is grown everywhere. And when I say everywhere, I mean everywhere! Wherever I went and wherever I looked, there was maize. Although it’s a crop that has become popular only over the past century, maize is Malawi’s main staple crop that count for over 50 percent of Malawians diet. Even farmers who specialized in other crops would grow at least a third or so of maize for home consumption. There was even a maize plot in front of my office building in Lilongwe. When I first saw the green, hilly landscape, I immediately thought of wine and I was told at there is indeed some grape production in Malawi. But for now, the hills are covered with maize fields.

I also had a chance to see the magnificent Lake Malawi one afternoon after we had met with cassava growers in the area. So spectacular and yet so peaceful! The people I met were very nice and welcoming, and I am not at all surprised that CNN just named Malawi Africa’s next go-to destination 2014. Malawi is definitely worth visiting! Here are a few pics. More posts to come!

Malawi Landscape

Malawi Landscape

Lake Malawi

Lake Malawi

Malawi child

Malawi maize

Malawi woman

Malawi hospitality