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Mzuzu Diocese CCJP helps Malawian women gain land ownership, improve food security
In Malawi, 92% of female-headed households live in rural areas and rely on subsistence farming for their livelihoods.
Malawi: In Malawi, 92% of female-headed households live in rural areas and rely on subsistence farming for their livelihoods, writes Susan Moyo.
However, these women often face hunger during the rainy months of January to March due to low yields caused by factors such as small landholding sizes and a lack of information on new, more productive farming techniques.
Additionally, in the northern part of the country, there is a cultural belief that women are not allowed to own land for farming.
To address these issues, the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP), under the Diocese of Mzuzu, with funding from the German government through Misereor, is implementing the "Women and Marginalized Groups Customary Land Tenure Rights II" project in the Rumphi and Mzimba districts.
The project aims to promote land rights and new farming technologies to women and vulnerable groups in order to improve food insecurity in the region.
The CCJP field officer Charles Soko explained that the project has been successful in helping more than 500 women acquire land since it was launched in 2018, through their biological fathers, brothers, and fathers-in-law.
"Many of these beneficiaries cannot afford to buy farm inputs to use on the acquired land, so we have also trained them in how to make and use manure to enrich the soil and increase production," Soko said.
"We believe that these technologies will address the food insecurity challenge in the districts."
To protect the acquired land for these women, Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) under Mzuzu Diocese has also worked with District Executive Committee Members to register and issue certificates to the women to prevent their land from being taken in the future.
Liness Harawa, a 40-year-old woman from Chimoyo village in Rumphi, said that life was difficult before the project.
"After my divorce, I came back home but I didn't have my own land to farm. Sometimes I rented land, but it was very difficult because I couldn't afford both the farm inputs and the land rentals," she explained.
"But with this project, I was given my own land, and they taught us how to make manure. My life has changed, and I can now provide the basic needs for my family and contribute to the economy through farming for both food and commercial purposes."
Group village headman Kajotche of traditional chief T/A Mwankhunikira in Rumphi shared that, culturally, land is usually given to male children, and females are expected to find their own land when they marry.
"We were reluctant to work with the CCJP because we thought their project was in conflict with our culture, but after the orientation, we realized how good it is for women and other vulnerable groups to own their land. Now we are seeing the benefits of this project—widows are now independent," he said.
"As a chief, I led by example. After my daughter got divorced, I shared part of my land with her so she could support her children through farming."
The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace is an arm of the Catholic Diocese of Mzuzu that is responsible for promoting human rights, justice, and peace, as well as protecting children and women, within the communities served by the Church.