The United Nations (UN) Women has estimated that Malawi is losing $100 million (about K64 billion) each year due to a widening gender gap in the agriculture sector.
The UN agency, dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women, also estimates that by closing the gender gap, the county could increase its crop production by 7.3 percent and thereby increasing agriculture gross domestic product (GDP) by $90 million (about K57 billion).
UN Women programme officer responsible for women’s empowerment Edfas Mkandawire revealed the figures on Tuesday through his paper titled Feminisation of Poverty during a Basic Needs Basket (BNB) annual conference organised by the Centre for Social Concern (CfSC).
In Malawi, women accounts for 70 percent of the labour force in the agriculture sector and represent a total of 52 percent of the national population.
“Yet of all such a significant contribution, women are not referred to as a ‘farmer’, but a wife of a farmer. This is worse in a situation where she is a wife of a tenant and not a tenant herself. Altogether, this affects her access to productive resources including agricultural advisory services,” said Mkandawire.
He explained that if women had equal access to productive inputs, as men, they would increase yield by 20 to 30 percent and total agricultural output by between 2.5 and four percent.
Mkandawire said by providing women with equal access to productive inputs, this would reduce the number of hungry people globally by 12 and 17 per cent, or 100 million to 150 million people.
Specifically on Malawi, Mkandawire said by closing the gender gap, Malawi would also lift 238 000 people out of poverty every year.
Commenting on the cost of gender based violence, Mkandawire said it is estimated that K250 000 is spent to complete the process of a single physical domestic violence case.
“Handling cases through formal courts costs us an estimated K276 million. And K274 million if treated through private clinics or one-stop-centres. And these are direct costs,” he said.
On challenges towards gender equality and women empowerment, Mkandawire cited slow approval of policies and bills, delays in approving the revised National Gender Policy and that gender and women empowerment programmes and activities are being implemented without a policy, among others.
Recently, UN Women Malawi senior adviser Helen Buluma bemoaned underinvestment in women in Malawi’s agricultural