Women's Participation in Fish Value Chains and Value Chain Governance in Malawi: A Case of Msaka (Lake Malawi) and Kachulu (Lake Chilwa)

This paper helps to fill an important gap that exists in gender responsive fish value chains by analysing the factors that influence women’s participation in fish value chains and value chain governance in Malawi. The study was based on the premise that there is limited information on how fish trade contributes to the livelihoods of specific groups within communities dependent on fisheries. In trying to assess the situation on the ground a value chain analysis framework was adopted and focus group interviews, key informant interviews and gender transformative approaches were used to analyse (a) value chain participation by men and women; (b) institutional arrangements in the value chain; and (c) perceptions and experiences of men and women in the value chain processes. In addition, relevant documents were reviewed to determine to which extent gender is considered in fish value chains and their governance. The study findings show that women are relatively integrated in all the nodes and activities of the value chain, even though their participation in leadership positions is limited because men dominate leadership and decision-making positions. From a governance point of view, the patterns of interactions identified are characterised by special proximity and family ties. The study also identified an intermediary node of auxiliary actors who play a critical role of brokering trade at the production and processing levels. It found that this role is not adequately recognised by external support and government as there are no support services targeted for such actors. The study contributed to a deeper understanding of women-specific issues in the fisheries sector in Malawi, hence providing further opportunities for gaining support for women’s empowerment in the fisheries sector.