Malawi, a small country in Africa, has a population of over 18 million. According to World Bank estimates, Malawi had 52.2% of the total population between 15 and 64 years as of the beginning of 2017. However, Malawi has a high level of unemployment among the productive population which is largely composed of young people.
A new Country Economic Memorandum gives us a chance to step back and look at the deep drivers of growth since Malawi’s independence in 1964. What stands out, though, is just how far Malawi has fallen behind its peers. It’s easy to look at the seemingly insurmountable challenges the country faces—from droughts and floods to the country’s landlocked status—yet other countries in the region have experienced just as many climate-related disasters, and overcome them better. And throughout the 50 plus years of its independence, Malawi has been fortunate to be at peace and mostly politically stable.
During my recent trip to Malawi, I saw that the expansion of agriculture, of illegal logging, and of charcoal production are decimating the country’s once-forested hillsides, causing soil to wash into rivers, wetlands, and lakes. This loss of topsoil is reducing crop yields, putting stress on agriculture-dependent communities, and leading to increasingly intense land use.
A new report entitled, “The Cost of the Gender Gap in Agricultural Productivity in Malawi, Tanzania and Uganda” launched last week at a side-event of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) 42nd session calling for policymakers to prioritize closing the gender gap in agricultural productivity in Africa. This report was jointly produced by the World Bank Africa Gender Innovation Lab, UN women and UNDP-UNEP Poverty-Environment Initiative to quantify the cost and specify the gain in closing the gender gap in agriculture.
This launch was positioned on the UN’s International Day of Rural Women – a day dedicated to recognizing that empowering rural women is key to achieving sustainable development. In Sub-Saharan Africa the reality is women form a large proportion of the agricultural labor force, yet gender-based inequalities in access to and control of productive and financial resources inhibit them from achieving the same level of agricultural productivity as men.
The Africa Gender Innovation Lab (GIL) has been working to generate evidence on how to close the gender gap in agricultural productivity through conducting rigorous impact evaluations. A 2014 GIL report entitled Levelling the Field identified areas to focus our attention in working to close the gap and offered promising policy solutions and emerging new ideas to test.
The new report expands on Levelling the Field, to illustrate why this gap matters, showing that closing the gap could result in gross gains to GDP of $100 million in Malawi, $105 million in Tanzania and $67 million in Uganda—along with other positive development outcomes such as reduced poverty, and greater food security.