An assessment of the participation of women and men in the community market conservation programme in the Luangwa Valley Region
Muwamba, Chisha Chungu
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This study investigated the participation of women and men in the Community Market Conservation Programme (COMACO) in the Luangwa Valley region. The purpose of the study was to assess the extent to which women and men participated in COMACO. The study was conducted in Mfuwe in Mambwe District in Eastern Province from August to October, 2008. In order to collect both qualitative and quantitative data, questionnaires and focus group discussions were used. A total number of 150 respondents, 75 males and 75 females drawn from Mkhanya and Nsefu chiefdoms provided information for the study. 100 of the respondents, 50 males and 50 females responded to questionnaires. 50 respondents, 25 males and 25 females participated in five focus group discussions of which 3 were, of mixed sex and 2 were single sex discussions. The study findings revealed that both women and men participated in production, marketing and decision making in the programme. In general, there was rather a gender balance with regards to access to land, access to ready markets, access to foodstuffs,crop diversification and both women and men obtained the same prices for the produce they sold.However, the study established gender inequalities in various aspects of the programme.For instance, more men than women dominated in the programme's decision making positions. The entire producer group chairpersons were men. Men also dominated in the positions of vice chairperson and secretary. On the contrary, more women than men occupied positions of treasurer and ordinary members. At COMACO's Community Trading Center, there were more women employed than men. However, women were not among the workers who received payments for specialized duties. In training, more women than men received improved farming techniques.The participation of women and men in the programme was hindered by socio-economic and cultural factors. Major factors that hindered women's participation in the programme included: cinamwali (female initiation rites), difficulties in crossing the Msandire and Lupande rivers, poor timing of the meetings and caring for the sick. On the other hand, factors that hindered men from participating in the programme included: lack of satisfactory technical knowledge from COMACO and hunting of wild animals. Both women and men reported factors that hindered their participation in the programme included lack of access to credit such as loans, poor transport infrastructure, low prices for the produce and lack of agricultural information. It was recommended that there is need for COMACO to educate both women and men on gender issues in order to bring about change in the community as a whole. The organization should deal with gender inequalities in all the section of the programme. In employment, all key positions should be shared equally between women and men. This will help the organization in monitoring the programme from a gender perspective.Gender equity in the programme must be mainstreamed. This integration of gender will guide the organization towards institutional re-consideration and human resource development from a gender perspective.Finally, since this study was confined to one region of COMACO only, it will be helpful to carry out this study on a large scale by incorporating all other regions under COMACO. If possible, such a study should be longitudinal to generate more beneficial results than the present one.