In Malawi’s agricultural landscape, women play a vital, and often underrepresented, role. Nearly 58% of Malawian women work in the agricultural sector, primarily on rural, family farms. These numbers only increase with family size and poverty levels; 62% of women with five or more children work in agriculture while 71% of those who fall within the lowest wealth quintile depend on agriculture for their livelihood.
However women tend to be underrepresented in agricultural leadership roles. Within Malawi’s permaculture movement, there have been frequent concerns raised over the lack of Malawian women trainers and leading practitioners. Here at Kusamala, we are working to change that trend through our projects and outreach, such as our apprenticeship program, trainings, and partnerships.
This past week, Kusamala hosted a five-day, introduction to permaculture training for representatives the Umodzi Women’s Group in Lilongwe and the Lydia Foundation from Zomba District. The groups came to us as part of a larger project supported by Salama Shield, which aims to improve livelihoods for vulnerable populations through microfinance for small business and increased food security. Kusamala has joined Salama Shield as an implementing partner, providing technical advice for improved staple crop production.
The training covered a range of introductory topics, such as permaculture ethics, basics of soil and water management, and crop diversity, with a particular focus on staple crop production.
This past planting season, the members were given inorganic inputs for planting their staple crops. Over the lifespan of the project, through trainings and follow-up technical support, Kusamala will help the women transfer away from chemical fertilizers and adopt more sustainable, conservation techniques. In line with this effort, the past week has included lessons on tree cultivation, agroforestry, organic fertilizers, contour planting, and diverse staple crop production.
The women left with songs, dances, and enthusiasm following the certificate presentation ceremony. Here at Kusamala we are excited to continue working with the women’s groups and hope that this is only one small step in our larger push to increase the involvement of Malawian women in the permaculture movement.
For more information on Salama Shield, visit their website.