Lilian Simkhonde grew up believing that a woman ought to be cared for and provided for. “I was made to always think that I could depend on my husband for everything I need.”
However, after her own journey to self-reliance, that’s no longer the case for Lilian.
Her thinking changed in 2018 when, as part of Self Help Africa’s KULIMA BETTER programme, Lilian joined the Tutulane (which translates to ‘let’s help each other’) farmer field school, where she learned about new farming technologies.
Lilian also joined the Jimbilira (‘stand firmly’) Village Savings and Loans cooperative – using her loan to buy fertiliser. With profits from her increased harvest, Lilian has bought a goat, as well as small livestock such as chicken and guinea fowl. She also has a vegetable garden, selling some of her produce to her neighbours.
“My whole family is in good health. We eat what we want, because we can afford to have all the food groups. It was not like this before the project” says Lilian, smiling.
Her advice to other women farmers? “You can empower yourself and become self-reliant. Do not just depend on men. When you are economically independent, you can survive in all circumstances.”
In Malawi, women make up 70% of the agricultural labour force. But traditionally, women have not had the same and control over productive resources, and financial assets compared to men.
The KULIMA BETTER project is working to change this – so that all people enjoy the same rights, resources and opportunities. This approach includes improved collaboration, work sharing on care and economic tasks, and equitable decision making at household level.