A new study set in rural Malawi examines how increasing collaborative decision-making in households helps to increase resilience and productivity.
The authors studied communities working with a household methodology called the Gender Action Learning System (GALS), and a control community which is not familiar with the methodology, to see if promoting collaborative decision-making through the GALS has measurable impacts in terms of asset development and accumulation, sharing of productive and care/home tasks, on participation in community life and leadership, and on expenditures.
The GALS, introduced by the National Association of Smallholder Farmers in Malawi in 2013 to the study communities, engages participants in discussions and drawings to help them identify a vision for their lives and to make a plan for how to realize their vision. This involves an analytic and planning process which focuses on identifying strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to their vision, and building a time bound action plan.
The study shows that productivity typically increases in the GALS study sites. Women report strongly improved social standing and participation in leadership, and both women and men report developing asset portfolios, both individually and jointly owned, such as ox-carts, land, buildings, and livestock. In both the GALS and the non-GALS sites, men continue to dominate marketing and are final decision-makers. However, in the GALS sites women and men report financial transparency and close discussion on expenditures, in contrast to the non-GALS sites. Some men are allowing their wives to sell crops like tobacco and to see sale sheets, or registering land in their wife’s name.
Although dramatic changes are reported in a short time as a consequence of working with the GALS, some women were concerned about developing shared asset portfolios given that their communities are patrilineal and patrilocal. This makes their assets vulnerable to being seized in the event of marital breakdown. They thus focused on developing individual asset portfolios.
This work was funded by the CGIAR program on Climate Change and Food Security (CCAFS).
Check out the full article: “Exploring the potential of household methodologies to strengthen gender equality and improve smallholder livelihoods: research in Malawi in maize-based systems.” 2018. Farnworth, C.R., Stirling, C., Chinyophiro, A., Namakhoma, A., Morahan, R. In: Journal of Arid Environments v. 149, p. 53-61, part of the special series “Women in Drylands: Barriers and Benefits for Sustainable Livelihoods.” Edited by Sarab Abu-Rabia-Queder, Avigail Morris.
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