Gendered perspective on the fish value chain, livelihood patterns and coping strategies under climate change - insights from Malawi’s small-scale fisheries

  • M.M. Limuwa
  • G Synnevåg
Keywords: Climate change, coping, fisheries, gender, livelihoods, Malawi, perceptions, value chain


In Malawi, fish is a form of livelihood to many poor people, despite fluctuations in catches. Female participation in natural resource activities, including fisheries improve livelihoods. However, female participation in Malawi fisheries has historically been low compared to their role in agriculture. In this article, gender roles in the fish value chain, livelihood patterns and gendered coping strategies in Malawi’s small-scale fisheries under the effects of climate change were analysed. The analysis is based on interviews conducted on the western shores of Lake Malawi in two phases between January 2016 to June 2016 and June 2017 to July 2017. Qualitative and quantitative research methods were used to collect and analyse data from randomly sampled male and female household heads who own fishing gears and vessels. The study showed no significant differences between men and women in their perceptions of climate change in the last 30 years. The respondents’ perceptions on ecosystem changes were significantly different for a number of trees and vegetation cover. However, there are significant differences on how male and female respondents perceived changes in fish catches and species composition. The statistically significant results showing differences between fish value chain activities and gender are attributed to the well-defined division of roles and responsibilities within Malawi fisheries. Respondents acknowledged the increased participation of women in grading, processing and selling fish in urban markets compared to the past. However, increased participation of women in fisheries was not due to perceived changes in climate but due to ownership of fishing gear and economic empowerment through development projects. Furthermore, this participation did not result in women having power to control or decide how to use fisheries related income. The study also shows women have a higher proportion of fisheries related monthly income than men. The main income sources are gendered and have changed in the last twenty years from heavily relying on agriculture to fisheries related sources. These changes could be attributed to climate related changes among other drivers. The study further observed significant differences in coping strategies between men and women attributed to households’ social construction. Men ventured into fisheries and agriculture related initiatives while women were more into business initiatives. The findings suggest gender considerations regarding access to natural resources have implications on sustainable livelihoods. It is suggested that changes that transform gender relations should be put in place to improve women’s ability to bargain.

Keywords: Climate change, coping, fisheries, gender, livelihoods, Malawi, perceptions, value chain


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1684-5374
print ISSN: 1684-5358