Many smallholder farmers, especially women, struggle to access productive resources and profit from their agricultural labour. P4P’s gender strategy suggested the provision of time- and labour-saving technologies as a vital step towards improving women farmers’ agricultural productivity and access to formal markets. Emerging lessons learned confirm the benefits these technologies can have for women farmers, who generally profit little from their long hours of manual labour. To address these challenges in Zambia, WFP has partnered with Heifer International to provide women with draft power through a project called Women’s Empowerment through Animal Traction (WEAT).
Women’s Empowerment through Animal Traction
WEAT is implemented in the Mazabuka and Kawambwa districts. Women farmers who faced particular challenges were selected to receive two heifers each, as well as a ripper or plough, bean seeds and an animal health drug kit. Participants also benefit from training on animal draft power, cattle management, record keeping and conservation farming. Using the heifers, these farmers are now able to plough more land and plant crops in a timely fashion. WFP provides an assured market for participants’ surplus, enabling them to earn an increased income.
So far, cattle have been distributed to 30 women using Heifer’s “pass on the gift” principle. This means that participants pass on their cattle’s first female offspring, as well as their training, to other families in their community. This fosters ownership and ensures the sustainability of the project. In August 2014, eight of 20 heifers in the Mazabuka district had given birth, and the rest were reported to be in calf. The calves will be distributed to other families in early 2015.
Increasing production and increasing incomes
[photo|644443] WEAT participant Esther Lumamba, and her husband Severino, are now producing cowpeas for sale to WFP. Previously, due to poor health, Esther faced difficulties engaging in manual labour such as ploughing her field.
“We used to hire our friends’ cattle to plough our fields, and it delayed the planting time as they only released their cattle when their own fields were done. This used to cost us heavily as we would have poor yields because the maturity period in which moisture is most critical would have passed. This year, the story changed, as we were able to cultivate our field in good time just at the onset of the rainy season using our own cattle,’” says Esther.
Under WEAT, emphasis has been placed on increasing the production of pulses, because they are traditionally considered “women’s crops”. This enables women to take part in sales to WFP without competing with the men in their households. In Zambia, WFP has procured nearly 3,000 mt of beans and cowpeas from these and other P4P-supported farmers for the home grown school feeding programme. With their increased incomes, women are now better able to invest in their homes, bicycles and pay their children’s school fees. Participants have also marketed maize and cassava to the National Food Reserve and private sector buyers.
Additional benefits and sustainable solutions
[photo|644442] Heifers provide a variety of other benefits to the participating farmers and their communities. The animals’ manure is now being used as an organic fertilizer, leading to improved productivity and reduced costs for inputs. The milk produced by the cattle is also improving household nutrition, and the surplus is sold for extra income. For example, Martha Miyoba milks around 5 litres of milk a day, and sells half. She says this extra income has allowed her to better care for her family’s needs by purchasing soap, vegetable seeds and medicine.
Participants undergo training on how to care for and feed their heifers to ensure they can provide for the animals' health. Plus, community members are trained and certified as para-vets through the Zambia Institute for Animal Health. This provides these community health workers with an income generating activity and ensures the recipients will have access to the appropriate vaccinations and medicine to keep their cattle healthy. Despite these efforts, some technical challenges were encountered. In some cases, a shortage of proper spraying facilities for the prevention and control of pests proved challenging. To remedy this, knapsack sprayers were provided. When these proved not to be powerful enough, they were replaced with larger and more powerful boom sprayers.