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Soul Beat Edutainment article on the FANRPAN project: Women Accessing Realigned Markets (WARM)
11 August 2010

Acknowledgements: FANRPAN acknowledges The Soul Beat as the source of this article


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Programme Summary
Launched in July 2009, Women Accessing Realigned Markets (WARM) is a three-year project working to strengthen women farmers' ability to advocate for appropriate agricultural policies and programmes. Initiated by the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the project is being piloted in Mozambique and Malawi. The goal is to assist women farmers to gain access to tools, such as credit and better seeds, that will allow them to farm more successfully by ensuring that local and national policies and services address their needs. As part of the project, theatre is being used to raise awareness and dialogue about agricultural policies so that women and their communities can advocate better for improved policies and services.

Communication Strategies
The WARM project seeks to leverage FANRPAN’s experience as a regional multi-stakeholder policy research network to bridge the divide between women farmers, researchers, and agricultural policy processes, with the goal of increasing women farmers’ access to markets. FANRPAN is partnering with other stakeholders, including regional and national farmers organisations, national research institutions, universities, community-based groups, and national and regional policymakers to ensure farmers have access to markets, extension services, better seeds, adequate fertilizer, and other important resources.

The WARM project uses Theatre for Policy Advocacy to engage leaders, service providers, and policymakers; encourage community participation; and research the needs of women farmers. Essentially, theatre is being used to explain agricultural policy to people in rural areas, and to carry voices from the countryside back to government. A play, written and directed by Zimbabwean playwright Cont Mhlanga and featuring actors from Bulawayo’s Amakhosi Theatre, explores the challenges rural women face in accessing farming inputs, particularly government subsidies.

One of the characters in the play is Nkolomi, a nepotistic village headman who dominates access to farming inputs. His long-standing practice is to distribute seeds and fertiliser to his cronies, depriving women – among them widows struggling to support their families alone – to the extent that some have not farmed in three years. But Nkolomi is opposed by one desperate widow, by the area’s newly-elected member of parliament, and by his own wife. According to the organisers, the story highlights how local authorities sometimes undermine stated government policy and efforts by civil society to empower women.

Development Issues
Agriculture, Women

Key Points
According to the organisers, in Africa, the majority of rural farmers are women. At the same time, research demonstrates that women are often excluded from the decision-making process and local governance. As a result, the needs of women farmers are often not reflected in local and national agricultural policy. Women are often marginalised in business relations and have minimal control over access to factors of production like land, inputs such as seed and fertilizer, credit, and technology. Due to a combination of logistical, cultural, and economic factors, they are often not able to benefit fully from development programmes and services. By empowering women farmers to advocate for their concerns, the WARM project hopes to ensure that women farmers have what they need to increase their income and provide for their families.

FANRPAN is piloting the project in two countries, Mozambique and Malawi. Results and findings from these two countries will be extended to other Southern and East African countries with a combined total population of 400 million.

Partners
Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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