Gender, intensification, extension and the “missing link” in Ntcheu District of Malawi
Since the inception of extension services in the mid-1940s in Malawi the benefits associated with extension service delivery are two fold; providing agricultural intensification knowledge through innovation brokering as well as recognized increase in crop production which however intensified already existing gender disparities. This paper examines the influence of gender relations in extension service delivery and explores the possible opportunities and challenges faced in delivering and adopting agricultural initiatives with particular focus on Ntcheu district of Malawi where the need to intensify production through extension is high. Using qualitative approach, inclusive of key informant interviews, focus group discussions, observations and documentary evidence, this study examines the influence of gender on the relationship between extensionists and farmers towards improved production. In Ntcheu the numerically visible plot holders---women are seldom actively engaged as extension knowledge conveyers, such that the grip of matrilineage---a backbone to resource control loses its sting within extension practices. Women occupy the larger portion of scheme extension beneficiaries and have a higher level of involvement as scheme managers as reflected at respective higher levels though overall they appear to be less recognized as sources of technical services. Instead minority contact farmers who are mostly men are engaged more, particularly in product value-addition expertise inclusive of post-harvest and merchandizing knowledge; positioning men as secondary landholders with prime economic muscle. The paper recommends that a further exploration on the possible influence of gender-technology specificity and its possible benefits to farmers be done as a stepping stone to alleviate poverty.