The Women Accessing Realigned Markets (WARM) Project sought to strengthen the ability of women farmers to advocate for appropriate agricultural policies and programmes. The goal of the project was for women farmers to have access to assets, such as knowledge, technology, credit, better seeds, fertiliser and other inputs by ensuring that local, national and regional policies and services address their needs. The project was launched by the Food Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) in pilot sites in Malawi and Mozambique.
he ultimate goal of WARM project was to empower women farmers and sensitize relevant decision-makers to women’s special needs so that they can gain better access to support services and input markets.

The WARM project focused on building the capacity of women farmers, research universities, and development NGOs. Women farmers at selected sites in Malawi and Mozambique were equipped with information, evidence-based messages, and training in using community theater as a platform to advocate for policies and institutional arrangements to facilitate their access to input markets. The community-based and owned theatrical performances were followed by facilitated dialogues to uncover and document community-based solutions to the challenges expressed by women farmers. Policy advocacy training workshops were arranged for women farmers and other community advocates. The community advocates were encouraged to communicate the community-based solutions coming out of the TPAs to decision-makers and service providers. The training enabled community advocates (or champions) to negotiate with service providers and buyers on behalf of other women. They are now playing more active roles in farmer organisations and community forums. The WARM project aimed to develop the capacity of researchers and development agencies to collect more fine-grained and practical information from the field in order to ensure that policies and actions are more responsive to the actual needs. Policy makers do not always have access to relevant and up-to-date information on the real challenges faced by women farmers. The project thus aimed to build the capacity of researchers to conduct more people-centered research, which would make their inputs to decision makers more sensitive to the needs of the women farmers.

Objectives and beneficiaries

The project had five objectives:

1. To provide a platform for communities to dialogue on issues that affect women farmers’ access to input markets;
2. To empower women farmers to play a more active role in driving the development agenda;
3. To align development research agenda to women farmers’ issues;
4. To align input supply institutions and programs to women farmer needs; and
5. To bring women farmer concerns into national and regional policy debates.

Strong points of the practice

Women were heavily involved in the Theatre for Policy Advocacy (TPA) and advocacy training aspects of the WARM project. Women farmers at the selected sites in Malawi and Mozambique were trained in community theatre. Drawing on discussions on the challenges that they faced, they decided on the messages that they wanted to convey to the audience and developed their own script. Theatre professionals and development researchers from local universities assisted with the development of the script, which ensured that the theatrical performances blended broad policy data and frameworks with locally identified problems and solutions. Women farmers performed the play and actively participated in the policy dialogues, which followed the plays, by raising issues affecting women in the pilot sites. The TPAs provided a platform for community dialogue on issues that affected the access of women farmers to input markets. Women farmers were empowered to play a more active role in driving the development agenda. The WARM project aimed to align the development research agenda in Malawi and Mozambique to women farmers’ issues. An important aspect of the project was to train researchers and development experts to be more sensitive to the needs of the community, especially to those of women farmers. The WARM project also supported a two-way interaction between communities and researchers. This meant that communities informed the research agenda and the research outputs provide evidence and policy options to the communities, which enabled them to advocate for changes that benefit them. FANRPAN also worked closely with national farmers unions in Malawi and Mozambique to elevate women’s voices in their processes.

Expected results and benefits for climate change adaptation and mitigation

The main benefits of the WARM project were: Firstly, the TPA provided a powerful, culturally appropriate medium for women farmers to voice their concerns with national decision makers and community leaders. It created a platform for communities to dialogue on specific issues and solutions to some of the concerns were identified at community level. Secondly, women farmers gained a better understanding of how policies and programmes function and how to advocate for change. Thirdly, women farmers, who were trained in policy advocacy, have subsequently championed their concerns at the national-level and are playing more active roles in farmer organisations and community forums. Fourthly, the TPAs identified weaknesses in seed and fertilization distribution mechanisms that resulted in delays, poor targeting and subjective decision-making on who should receive free seeds and fertilizer. The WARM project provided information on existing distribution policies and mechanisms to all stakeholders. By documenting household livelihood strategies, input suppliers will be able to match services to need. Fifthly, the TPA process provided a learning opportunity for local academics and development experts. It also improved communication between women farmers, policy researchers and NGOs. Women farmers gained a better understanding of the role of service institutions. The WARM project thus empowered women, informed NGO programming, and educated researchers to unpack and provide information relevant to women farmers and decision makers.

Replicability potential of the practice

FANRPAN and its wide network of partners have a long-term commitment to the issues addressed beyond the end of this project. For example, the intention is to continue to maintain the project website after the project closes to promote uptake of the findings, generate new interest and evolve them further. A series of follow-on activities and publications are planned, to further disseminate findings. Trained women advocates in Malawi and Mozambique belong to the national farmers unions (NASFAM and UNAC respectively) which can assist them in continuing dialogue with policy makers and service providers. Furthermore, the theatre groups have already started moving forward on their own initiative by staging new theatre performances, addressing new marketing constraints experienced during the 2011/12 season. Finally, children have also expressed strong interest in participating in theatre, not only as part of the audience, but as active performers and as the future generation of farmers. On the institutional side, the relationship between partners will continue beyond the life of the project. This confirms the strong relevance of innovation and huge potential for sustainability.