Strengthening the participation of women in fisheries and aquaculture in Malawi

Fish traders at Nguwo fish landing site ©FAO/Towela Munthali

In a bid to organize women in fisheries, strengthen their position and enhance their participation in fisheries and aquaculture, the Government of Malawi in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and development partners supported the launch of the Malawi chapter of the African Women Fish Processors and Traders Network (AWFISHNET).

A lack of organizational capacity, good governance systems and sufficient capital and appropriate technology to meet market standards and demands, are some of the constraints that limit women in fisheries from economic empowerment. Given these challenges, the ability to organize and form a network is particularly important as it will promote collective marketing, offering opportunities for women to negotiate for competitive prices and will also bring greater visibility to women’s role within the sector. 

“We expect that this network will contribute to enhancing the economic empowerment of women in fisheries and aquaculture, which is not only a social justice issue, but also important for sustainable economic growth within the fisheries sector,’’ said FAO Representative, Zhijun Chen.

Among its key functions, the AWFISHNET Malawi chapter will enhance connections among women in the sector by enabling them to communicate and collaborate with each other, provide a platform for women fish processors, traders and fish farmers to share best practices, experiences, technologies and learn together.

“Establishment of this network will increase the visibility of women’s work and enable better understanding and recognition of the important role that they play in the sector. This network for women fishers in Malawi is a milestone for the country, seeing as women play a critical role along the fisheries value chain in utilizing fisheries resources not only for economic gains, but also for nutritional and food security goals,” Minister of Natural Resources and Climate Change, Eisenhower Nduwa Mkaka.

A platform for advocacy and change

The network will also be a platform for call for action on issues affecting women and for facilitating policy to create an enabling environment that enhances their role in the fisheries and aquaculture sub-sectors.

“The Malawi chapter of AWFISHNET is a critical platform that will promote local initiatives of women fishers. Through this network, the capacities of women fishers will be enhanced with knowledge and skills to lobby and advocate by themselves with decision makers at national level,’’ said Violet Kanyamula, who is the interim chairperson for the network.   

Over 80 percent of fish traders in Malawi are women. They are involved in processing, transporting and selling of fish in wholesale markets, work that is usually constrained by high transportation costs, post-harvest losses, unfair market practices by middle-men and a lack of modern, gender-sensitive technologies.

In this context, the establishment of AWFISHNET Malawi is in line with the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication (SSF Guidelines), which recognize the importance of organizing women in fisheries. The SSF Guidelines is the only internationally negotiated instrument dedicated to small scale fisheries. In Malawi, it is being implemented with support from the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD).


The African Women Fish Processors and Traders Network (AWFISHNET) is a membership network of women fish processors and traders in Africa. The network membership is drawn from national associations of women involved in the fisheries sector, from 32 African Union countries. As such, the network is also meant to strengthen women’s role as small and medium enterprises (SMEs), helping to expand their business and marketing opportunities.

The launch of the AWFISHNET Malawi Chapter comes during the United Nations International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture (IYAFA 2022), which aims to highlight the importance of small-scale artisanal fisheries and aquaculture for global food systems, livelihoods, culture and the environment.

The AWFISHNET launch had an attendance of 50 participants representing stakeholders from the Southern African Development Community (SADC), partners such as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and women participating in small-scale fisheries.