Informal Labor and Social Relations in Northern Malawi: The Theoretical Challenges and Implications of Ganyu Labor for Food Security
Food insecurity is a problem faced by smallholder farmers in Malawi. In any given year between 70 and 85 percent of households run out of food stocks several months prior to the next harvest. Once food stocks are depleted many households obtain food by doing ganyu, a type of piecework labor. Limited research has been carried out on ganyu. This paper uses qualitative data to examine ganyu in relation to food security in one area of northern Malawi. Using the livelihoods framework, I argue that the most common form of ganyu is both a livelihood strategy and a measure of vulnerability, rather than a type of social capital as suggested by other authors. High reliance on ganyu points to increased social stratification related to a rise in smallholder tobacco production. Women in female-headed households appear to rely more on ganyu than in married households. Policy implications of these findings are considered.