Access to innovative technology is making real change possible for women in the developing world, empowering them and giving them the chance to lift themselves and their families out of abject poverty.

Walking up and down the shore of Lake Chilwa in Malawi selling cooked cassava and fritters was once a typical working day for 30-year-old Ida Likhomo.

Like many women, social pressures forced Ida to leave primary school after just two years. With an incomplete education, there was no opportunity for her to find stable employment and her only hope was marriage. With six children, life has not been easy for Ida and her family with a constant struggle for food and income.

Proceeds from the sale of cassava and fritters could not meet her family’s basic needs, pay for her children’s education or support her farming activities. Ida was locked in a cycle of poverty.

"I am able to positively contribute towards running the household, nourish the family and even manage agriculture for the well-being of my family." - Ida Likhomo, fish processor

Under the Building Social and Ecological Resilience in the Lake Chilwa Basin Programme, WorldFish, with funding from the Royal Norwegian Embassy, is working with women fish processors to reduce post-harvest losses incurred when fish are being processed. WorldFish is supporting women processors to adopt and implement fish value-addition activities focused on fish quality, hygiene and packaging. Two such activities are building fish smoking kilns and fish solar dryers.

Ida Likhomo is one of the many women who is benefiting from using the improved fish processing technologies developed by WorldFish. “A start-up capital of MWK 4000 ($USD 9.70), and the presence of the improved fish processing units, were the keys to my success,” says Ida.

With the money she made from the processed fish, she bought two goats, a male and a female, and started to diversify her livelihood. Over time, her herd grew to six and sale of goat’s milk and kid goats brought a welcome boost to her household’s income.

“As there was more demand for the processed fish, I had to increase my fish processing business and this prompted me to sell two goats to raise my capital to MWK 26,000 ($USD 63.50),” she says.

Ida notes that during the lake recession in Lake Chilwa in 2012 and 2013, her businesses were not adversely affected, despite having no fish to sell, because her diversified sources of income were able to carry her through the lean months.

“I am able to positively contribute towards running the household, nourish the family and even manage agriculture for the well-being of my family,” adds Ida. With her hard work, Ida realized her dream of owning an iron-roofed house.

16 December 2013

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