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Ganyu labour in Malawi and its implications for livelihood security interventions - an analysis of recent literature and implications for poverty alleviation

Research reports

The word ‘ganyu’ is widely used in Malawi to describe arange of short-term rural labour relationships, the most common of which ispiecework weeding or ridging on the fields of other smallholders, or onagricultural estates.

Ganyu is a crucial poverty issue in Malawi because:

• After own-farmproduction, ganyu is the most important source of livelihood for most poorhouseholds – for some it is becoming even more important than own-farmproduction.

• Ganyu is themost important coping strategy for most poor households in the crucial hungryperiod between food stores running out and the next harvest.

• The need to do ganyu to obtainan immediate supply of food may conflict with own-farm production and therefore,while addressing an immediate crisis, can lock some households into a viciouscycle of food insecurity.

• Low ganyu wage ratesmean agricultural labourers do not earn sufficient incomes to invest insustainable livelihood development.

Despite the widespread practice of ganyu, and its importanceto the poor, it is an under-researched component of the jigsaw that makes upthe livelihoods of rural Malawians. This is a mistake, as ganyu is tooimportant to the poor to be sidelined – it will play a critical role in futurerural development strategies and has important interactions with the currentdebate about developing safety nets in Malawi.

The paper discusses recent literature on ganyu and opens up a debateabout various future scenarios and how different strategies may affect rurallabour markets.
Martin Whiteside