A global critique of agricultural extension holds that its efforts are directed towards, or its benefits are accrued by, the relatively large-holder rather than the smallholder farmer. This is of particular concern in Malawi where the average farm size is about 1.1 hectares, about one-half of farms are less than one hectare, and about 5% of farms are over three hectares (Ministry of Agriculture, 1990).
The overall aim of Malawi's National Rural Development Program V is to increase the farm productivity and the quality of life of smallholder farmers. Malawi's Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) administers this program through its research, extension, and other departments. During 1986-1992, the Malawi Agricultural Research and Extension (MARE) Project provided technical assistance to further build MOA capacity to reach national rural development aims. The Project, led by the Consortium for International Development, was funded by Government of Malawi and United States Agency for International Development. An institution-building project, MARE focused
on research, training, and extension within the context of smallholder agriculture. Moreover, it emphasized further strengthening the Women's Programme in the MOA Department of Agricultural Extension and Training (DAET). Women farmers are an explicitly identified client group of Malawi's Department of Agricultural Extension and Training. Women farmers are the nation's primary producers of food (Koopman, 1989, p. 2). They account for two-thirds of all full-time farmers responsible for the daily food supply (Chibwana, 1989). They make numerous agricultural production decisions. Recent survey results report that extension staff and local leaders estimate women make at least one-half of agricultural production decisions (Culler, Patterson, & Matenje, 1990). They are involved in both food and cash crop productions. A review of several studies suggests "that in households where cash crops are grown, women do as much work as men, often doing activities believed to be done only by men" (Ngwira, 1987, p. 25).