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Presentation 21: Women and men farmers perceptions of economic and health benefits of OFSP in Phalombe and Chikwawa district in Malawi

This paper looks at the perceived economic, health and social benefits of production, commercialization and consumption of Orange-fleshed Sweetpotato (OFSP) from the point of view of men and women farmers. It important to understand how men and women farmers perceive benefits as these perceptions may determine whether they adopt bio-fortified crops or not. This qualitative study was conducted in 2013 in Phalombe and Chikwawa districts in Malawi. In total 19 FGDs were conducted:  8 with women farmers, 9 with men farmers, and 2 with extension officers.  An average of 10 people participated in each FGD. There were also 15 Individual in-depth interviews: 9 with male decentralised vine multipliers (DVMs), 3 with female DVMs or wives of male DVMs and 2 with extension officers.


Results: Perceived health and economic benefits were key in determining whether men and women farmers adopted OFSP varieties. Perceived health benefits included reports of men having increased energy for sex, men and women having increased energy to work, improved eyesight, general wellbeing and improved health and cognitive development for children. This may mean that when promoting OFSP both men and women are receptive to health and nutrition based messages and should be targeted with appropriate and correct messages. Economic benefits included ability to invest income from selling of OFSP roots and vines into housing, animal purchase, food purchase, land purchase, and meeting other household expenditure needs. However, while perceived economic benefits were important, men and women did not have equal access to economic benefits. For example, women did not control the larger amount of sale revenue from sweetpotato vine sales,  because they were not targeted as vine multipliers by the project. Therefore, women could not invest in large assets like cattle, land and other agriculture equipment which are important to move out of poverty. Income from OFSP sales also allowed men and women farmers to diversify their portfolio by investing in livestock and other cash crops such as maize. Women also mentioned an improvement in their income from selling of roots and also increase in self-esteem and self-respect because they no longer needed to ask money from their husbands to buy household consumables.


Conclusions: Women need to be engaged as vine multipliers in order to have access to and control of income from vine multiplication. Although extension workers mentioned that they considered access to water and land which according to them women did not have, women often mentioned that they also had access to land through their husbands land which they had inherited from their parents for women in matrilineal communities. Furthermore they mentioned that working in groups could allow them to hire land and purchase inputs if needed for vine multiplication. Since women were not included in the project as primary DVMs, they did not have control over how income from selling of sweet potato vines was spent. However, they had more influence  and control on components of the project that clearly targeted them such as roots marketing, consumption and processing. Since livestock was a key investment option for both men and women, options of making sweetpotato based silage for animal feed should be explored as a potential use of unsold vines.  Care should be taken to ensure that correct information related to health benefits is disseminated to both men and women.


Mudege, N.N., Mayanja, S. and Muzhingi, T. 2016. Women and men farmer perception of economic and health benefits of OFSP in Phalombe and Chikwawa district in Malawi. Presentation made at the 2016 Marketing, Processing and Utilization Cop Meeting in Tanzania.