Determination, discipline and proper planning has payed off for 25 year old Maureen Adson, from Chikojo Village, Traditional Authority Nyambi in Machinga District.
The once poverty stricken mother of a two year old daughter has harvested and is yet to yield more crops from her farm. This is because of determination, courage and hard work from the young woman who went into farming with no financial backup but three hoes and two casual laborers.
Adson married her husband in 2007 but after only a year he left for South Africa and failed to send her any sort of provision for her and their child. Her parents gave her a piece of land but it was too small to produce adequate yields. She reflects proudly,
The only available option was to have enough land, which I believe is a lifelong asset that I will use for the rest of my life and that of my children.
In 2009 Adson heard about local Reflect Circles but had little idea what they were for, but thought she would go to find out and admitted that it exceeded her expectations.
Reflect is a methodology, which ActionAid International Malawi championed in the country as a tool for organizing women at the grassroots level. The NIZA funded ActionAid Women Land Rights Project (WOLAR), is implementing the project using this methodology.
I heard about the REFLECT Circle and I decided to go there just to learn more about women’s rights and gender.
Having been completely unaware of women’s land rights she was eager to learn more and soon realized that owning and cultivating her own land was the only way she could escape the poverty into which she was rapidly sinking.
After analyzing the land problems during circle meetings she took it upon herself to mobilize her fellow landless women and lobby for the Group Village Headman (GVH) in her area to allocate them some farming land.
She invited gvh Chikojo to some of their meetings to teach him about women’s rights, with great results. GVH Chikojo said:
Because of the meeting, I felt determined to support them by approaching authorities of the Community Based Rural Land Project (CBRLP). I am glad that I was able to do that.
Following this, GVH Chikojo allocated land to six women in his area. Pleased as she was, Adson still had no fertilizer, seed and or man power to work the land, and no momey to pay for them. But she did not give up. She borrowed seed and fertiliser and hired two men as casual labourers on a credit basis. A courageous Adson tells her story.
I had the land but no farming inputs so I decided to take a risk.
For the casual laborers, Adson paid them off with tobacco based on the output. With everything in place, she took on farming as a business. “I planted maize, groundnuts, pigeon peas, ground beans and tobacco. From it I expect to get over 32 bags of maize, 15 bags of ground nuts and I can’t estimate how much pigeon peas I am to harvest,” a proud Adson explains.
Maureen says this is enough for her to start a new life and hopes to become economically independent. She says the tobacco will enable her to start building a new house and open up a small business, while the maize will be used for food. Groundnuts and pigeon peas will support her in the provision of some day-to-day basic needs.
Maureen’s case is a shining example of how land can transform lives of rural women farmers. Her success story is being used by stakeholders, local leaders and other individuals in the community to follow the same steps in advocating for women land rights.