Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Politics and International Studies

Research Student: Dr Betty Chinyamunyamu

The Invisibilisation of Female Farmers from Agricultural Policies and Interventions: The Case of the Malawi farm Inputs Subsidy Programme (FISP)

Photo of Dr Betty Chinyamunyamu

Female farmers in Malawi and many other African countries remain subordinate to and more food insecure than their male counterparts. It is paradoxical that this status quo has persisted in spite of two significant factors: their high and increasing involvement in food and agricultural production, and policy commitments at both national and international levels to address gender inequalities in the agricultural sector. Using the case study of the Malawi Farm Input Subsidy Programme (FISP), this research critically engages with these issues to explain why agricultural policies have not been successful in addressing gender inequalities in the sector. It argues that in spite of feminisation of agriculture, development policies in Malawi still largely consider men as ‘the farmers’ and therefore neglect female farmers and the complexity of gender relations. Consequently, the government’s response to food insecurity is compromised by a cyclical process embedded in the policy making cycle that facilitates, re-enforces and perpetuates the subordination of female farmers – the Female Subordination Cycle.

This research is situated at the intersection of food security, agricultural policy and gender and development literature – fields that are inter-connected but inadequately speak to each other. It therefore brings to the fore connections across these fields that are critical for understanding and consequently addressing the dual and inter-connected challenges of female subordination and food insecurity.  Through a detailed examination of how the food security status of FHHs (both de jure and de facto) has been affected by the FISP, it contributes to a de-invisibilisation of female farmers from agricultural policies and interventions. 

The research takes a pragmatic approach and employs mixed research methods. It is grounded in extensive fieldwork involving a large number of participants (over 540). A gender-aware approach to selection of participants is undertaken in that although female farmers are the main and primary research participants, male farmers are also consulted through focus group discussions.

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