Gender and Agricultural Extension Services in Ntcheu District of Malawi
There has been an observable shift of extension practices in developing countries across the globe; from micro level centered approach to group centered extension practices. 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 Kaziputa irrigation scheme in 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. Women have a higher level of involvement as scheme managers and also have significant representation in strategic positions as decision makers at different extension operations levels despite limited recognition as extension skills conveyers as a consequence of household and institutional gender disparity drivers. The presence of women as managers at these critical levels allows for gendered extension service source-target alignment along the extension service needs chain. However the levels of women’s involvement at scheme level as knowledge distribution points is limited despite their presence in the management platform and the effect of matrilineage leverage to resource control. This discrepancy is intensified by biased engagement of irrigators in farm product promotion techniques where the minority contact farmers who are mostly men are capacitated to drive the sustainability wheel. With the observed interdependence between gender, increased agricultural performance and extension; the paper therefore recommends that a further exploration on gender-technology specificity and agricultural performance nexus be done as a measure of its possible benefits to farmers.