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RWA Malawi: Malawian Rural Women Adapt to Drought Through Innovative Farming Practice


Malawi, a country grappling with the harsh realities of climate change, is currently facing a severe drought that has crippled agricultural activities across the nation. Recently,  President Lazarus Chakwera declared a state of emergency in response to a severe drought, resulting in 23 out of its 28 districts being designated as disaster areas. In his declaration, the President urgently appealed for international support, emphasizing the necessity for over $200 million in humanitarian aid to tackle the escalating crisis. The adverse effects of this drought have particularly impacted rural communities, with women bearing a significant brunt of the crisis. However, amidst the challenges, the Rural Women Assembly (RWA) Malawi sisters of Balaka district (located in the Southern part of Malawi), one of the districts that has been critically hit by the drought, has emerged as a beacon of resilience and innovation, showcasing how proactive measures and community-driven initiatives can mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Adapting to Adversity:

As crops withered under the scorching sun, the Rural Women Assembly of Balaka refused to succumb to despair. Led by Chairperson Ellen Chikadza, they embarked on a bold initiative to purchase new land with assistance of the community’s traditional leaders and diversify their crops. Recognizing the potential of soya beans to thrive in adverse conditions, the women planted these resilient crops, defying the odds posed by the relentless drought.

Agricultural Resilience:

Their efforts bore fruit as the soya bean crops flourished, offering a ray of hope amidst the parched landscape. RWA Balaka Chairperson Ellen Chikadza expressed optimism about the harvest, highlighting the potential for increased earnings if the rains persist. Moreover, the women of Balaka district have embraced a flurry of activities during March, the month dedicated to women. From tree planting to cultivating potato vines and implementing innovative irrigation techniques, they are diligently working to support their families and mitigate the impact of the dry spell.

Financial Empowerment:

In addition to their agricultural endeavors, the Rural Women Assembly of Balaka has established a village savings and loans program. Through collective efforts, they pool resources, invest in shares, and utilize the accumulated funds to kickstart small-scale businesses. This financial empowerment initiative not only fosters economic independence but also serves as a crucial buffer against the vagaries of climate change.

Forward-Thinking Solutions:

RWA Malawi has taken proactive steps to address the challenges posed by climate change. Recognizing the importance of adaptation, they distributed potato vines to rural women, enabling them to diversify their farming practices and bolster resilience against future droughts. By uprooting dried maize crops and replanting with drought-resistant potato vines, the women of Balaka are embracing innovative solutions to navigate the changing agricultural landscape.


In the face of adversity, the Rural Women Assembly of Balaka exemplifies the power of community-driven initiatives and proactive adaptation strategies. Through resilience, innovation, and collective action, they are not merely weathering the storm but thriving amidst adversity. Their story serves as an inspiring testament to the resilience and ingenuity of rural women in confronting the challenges of climate change. As Malawi continues its battle against drought and other climate-related disasters, the experiences of Balaka district offer valuable insights into effective mitigation and adaptation measures for vulnerable communities across the globe.

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