International Women’s Day 2018: Malawian woman achieves independence through agriculture training

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

March 8 is International Women’s Day, a day to celebrate the important role women play around the world and to reflect on the increasing need for gender equality. The following is one example of how a female farmer from Malawi seized the opportunity offered through an agricultural training program to improve her crop, and ultimately, her family’s livelihood. Read more about International Women’s Day on the Foodgrains Bank website.

Malawian woman achieves independence through agriculture training

Through agricultural training supported by Canadian Foodgrains Bank, Malawian farmer Esther Beza, 29, learned new farming techniques that have enabled her to feed her large family and share excess with neighbours in need. (Photo: Shaylyn McMahon)

Esther Beza has many responsibilities.

The 29-year-old Malawian farmer takes care of her four children, three of her brother’s children and her elderly parents, all while farming two hectares of land.

It’s not always easy, but Beza tries to look on the bright side as much as she can.

“I am happy because I can provide for my family and share my excess crops with others,” she says.

Esther’s husband left for South Africa in search of work two years ago, which meant she had to do all the farming and household work on her own.

Due to changing rain patterns, low soil fertility and poor access to seeds, Beza’s crops didn’t yield enough food to feed her large family. She struggled to cope and would skip meals so her kids could eat.

Then she heard about an agricultural training project supported by Canadian Foodgrains Bank member Presbyterian World Service & Development and offered to about 6,000 families in the area.

“I was a poor woman so I decided to participate in the project so I could depend on myself to help my family and friends,” she says.

Esther Beza with her children and niece and nephew in front of her home in Zombwe, Malawi. (Photo: Shaylyn McMahon)

Beza began implementing farming techniques that she learned through the project, implemented locally by the Central Africa Presbyterian Church. She also received seeds and learned how to save some to use in following years.

“There have been many benefits since the project,” she says. “I no longer struggle to find seeds, and I have learned to use pig manure for fertilizer.”

In the past, if you asked Beza what her goals for her family were, she would have said to prevent hunger.

Now, she no longer worries about anyone going hungry and grows almost all the food she needs to provide healthy meals for her family.

“When I have excess food, I share with my neighbours if they need,” she says. “But when they don’t need, I sell the food and am saving up to pay for the school fees.”

“My new goal is to save money so I can send my relatives and kids to school.”

She hopes to send her younger brother to school first, and then her children, niece and nephews.

Beza is just one example of how investing in women farmers has spinoff effects that benefit entire communities.

For Foodgrains Bank executive director Jim Cornelius, that’s why supporting female farmers in the developing world plays a critical role in ending poverty.

“By providing female farmers like Esther with access to the same kind of training and resources as men, we could reduce the number of people living with chronic hunger by as much as 150 million people around the world,” he says.

Beza is grateful for the support that’s allowed her to use her own smarts and willpower to improve her life.

“I thank Canadian Foodgrains Bank for what it has done for me,” she says. “Because of the project, my farm and my family are better off.”

–Shaylyn McMahon, Communications assistant