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AICC Reduces Drudgery and Empower Women in Mchinji and Mzimba North

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African Institute of Corporate Citizenship (AICC) through Women Economic Empowerment (WEE) project is contributing towards strengthening women productivity and access to markets of high value crops. The project is promoting the production of groundnuts, since it is one of the highest value legume crops. Groundnuts is also strategic to the economic empowerment of women. Among other objectives the project envisages to increase access of labour and time saving equipment and services. Traditionally groundnut production requires substantial time for land and seed preparation, planting, cultivating, and harvesting, as well as post-harvest activities like; drying, dehusking, and cleaning the nuts before selling.

The major problem which smallholder farmers meet in groundnut production is drudgery. Almost 50 percent of the food produced in sub-Saharan Africa is lost after harvesting it from the field. This is due to poor handling and inefficient processing that promotes the spoiling or damaging of the food, before it is consumed on the table or reaching the market. A large percentage of groundnuts that is consumed in Malawi is produced by smallholder farmers, though they lack effective and efficient technology that can help them to do post-harvest services. They rely on traditional methods that minimize their income generating opportunities and the further supplying of their products to consumers beyond their villages. Women smallholder farmers are responsible for the majority of the post-harvest activities and this is a burden to them, since they lack effective and efficient equipment that can support them when handling these post-harvest tasks. Women have minimal time to care their families, as they spend a lot of time on post-harvest processing using traditional methods. This prevent them from focusing on anything beyond the immediate survival of their families. Women Smallholder farmers also lack an access to beneficial income-generating resources that are more often available to men that includes; business education, technical support, financial capital, land ownership and decision-making authority. This limits their opportunities to grow as entrepreneurs, keeping them trapped within the poverty cycle.

As one way of improving the groundnuts post-harvest activities, AICC in partnership with UN Women with funding from Standard bank has distributed groundnuts shellers and strippers to various cooperatives under the WEE project in Mchinji and Mzimba north. This equipment which were tailor made by Bountifield International (formerly compatible Technology International) are indeed compatible with the rural farmer business organization as they are operated manually. It is expected that the equipment will add value to the revolving schemes and will also help generate income as members and non-members will hire them at an appropriate fee. The output from manual methods are very low and cannot satisfy the market demand as it is a very time-consuming process. The distribution of these shellers and strippers is mainly about to remove the barriers while removing the groundnuts from the plant and from the shells. With the help of these equipment, the time gap of the groundnuts post-harvest activities will be reduced. The technology will make the farmer to work easily and save more time and investment. It is more efficient and can be available to all at minimum cost. Traditionally farmers are forced to soak the groundnuts in water to soften the shells. With the equipment at their disposal this will be a thing of the past as they will be able to de-shell dry groundnuts, thereby having nuts which are free from aflatoxin, as the moisture is one of the pre-conditions of the aflatoxin.

Smallholder farmers using the distributed Strippers and Shellers.

The distributed groundnuts shellers and strippers will be operated by smallholder farmers manually and this will enable the equipment to be used with minimum cost. The amount of power (time and energy) and the knowledge base a household can raise has a major influence on the household's livelihood strategies and is a major determinant of livelihood outcomes. The challenge is to identify, promote and support opportunities for labour and time saving technology to: relieve the burden of labour shortages and enable rural households to become more resilient.

During the distribution of the instruments the WEE project manager Rashid Mpinganjira told smallholder farmers that, Labour and time saving technologies could help to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers, as the main aim, is to enable smallholders generate more income and agricultural produce whilst at the same time reducing the labour burden on them, so that their livelihoods can improve. This technology can be a route out of poverty for smallholder farmers who require innovations that improve the labour productivity of their agricultural systems.

Currently African Institute of Corporate Citizenship (AICC) is implementing the Women Economic Empowerment project through Climate Smart Agriculture in Groundnuts Production Project targeting 5151 women farmers organised in cooperatives and other forms of farmer organisations in Njuyu, Zombwe, Mpherembe, Mbalachanda, Euthini and Bwengu EPAs in Mzimba north and also in Chiosya, Mkanda and Mikundi EPAs in Mchinji.

AICC Through Women Economic Empowerment Project-Sensitize Cooperative Members on COVID-19

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COVID-19 is transforming the way people live, work, buy, and relate to one another, and the changes seem to come by the minute. This global pandemic has inspired both fear and hope; closing business while encouraging innovation; forcing us to keep our distance while at the same time bringing us closer together. In the center of fear, confusion, and anxiety, African Institute of Corporate Citizenship (AICC) recognize the fundamental truth that it is not the time to abandon our stakeholders. It’s time to double down.

When it comes to COVID-19, corporate citizenship efforts, taking the right approach and tone is essential. As one way of reaching out to care for our stakeholders, AICC is sensitizing cooperatives on how they can protect themselves from COVID-19. This has been shown when women economic empowerment (WEE) project officers visited some of the cooperatives in Mchinji to sensitize the leaders of the cooperatives on how they can protect themselves from the pandemic. Few leaders of different cooperatives were met as one way of minimizing group gatherings and the one meter apart sitting plan was observed accordingly.