Ganyu Labour in Malawi and its implications for Livelihood Security Interventions:An analysis of recent literature and implications for poverty alleviation

Ganyu Labour in Malawi and its implications for Livelihood Security Interventions:An analysis of recent literature and implications for poverty alleviation

Livelihoods and security issues in Malawi

Ganyu is widely used in Malawi to describe a range of short term rural labour relationships, the most common of which is piecework weeding or ridging on the fields of other smallholders or on agricultural estates. Ganyu is a crucial poverty issue in Malawi because:

  • After own-farm production, ganyu is the most important source of livelihood for most poor households - for some it is becoming even more important than own-farm production
  • Ganyu is the most important coping strategy for most poor households in the crucial hungry period between food stores running out and the next harvest
  • The need to do ganyu to obtain an immediate supply of food may conflict with own-farm production and therefore, while addressing an immediate crisis, can lock some households into a vicious cycle of food insecurity
  • Low ganyu wage rates mean agricultural labourers do not earn sufficient to invest in sustainable livelihood development

Actions which force up the prevailing ganyu pay rates would probably be beneficial to the poor, especially given the acute inequalities in Malawi (with a very high Ginni Coefficient even within rural areas), however the knock on effects of this need further study.The best way(s) of achieving this are unclear, possibilities include:

  • labour intensive public works - especially if in the wet season
  • effective rural minimum wages - difficult to make effective
  • rural labour organisation - difficult with many dispersed small workplaces
  • improved tenancy arrangements - could have beneficial knock-on effects for both smallholder agriculture and ganyu
  • effective savings, credit and safety nets - may reduce seasonality of labour supply
  • agricultural diversification - reducing seasonality of both labour supply and demand
  • None of these are likely to prove effective on their own, but together they have some potential for at least ameliorating the current situation

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