By Watipaso Mzungu:
The social-economic status of over six hundred farmers in Malawi’s lakeshore district of Salima is set to be transformed through the European Union (EU)- funded Malawi Mangoes Project.
EU has provided €2.8 million (approximately K2.3 billion) to the Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development’s National Authorising Office (Nao) Support Unit to enable the government to promote agribusiness and reduce poverty among the targeted farmers.
In Malawi, just like in most African countries, agriculture remains the main source of employment.
However, low productivity, uncompetitive markets and weak rural infrastructure, among other factors, has affected potential for small-scale farmers to earn more.
Through Malawi Mangoes Limited, EU aims at improving farmers’ socio-economic status and help them operate through cooperatives for improved capacity and efficiency.
The EU and the Malawi government have engaged rural farmers in mango farming and crop diversification and Malawi Mangoes is the prime buyer.
The farmers have been advised to grow crops such as soya beans and groundnuts on the same fields with mango trees.
The project will, in the long run, reinforce farmers’ role in better shaping policies for agriculture and sustainable development, at national, regional and continental levels.
It will also improve the entrepreneurial capacities of cooperatives and their participation in value chains, strengthen the capacity of cooperatives to participate in and influence policy processes on agriculture and rural development at continental and international levels.
Recently, officials from Nao Support Unit and a delegation of senior officials from the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development in Uganda visited Tongola Cooperative in Village Head Chembe in Traditional Authority (T/A) Ndindi to appreciate how the project was being implemented.
Chairperson for Tongola Cooperative, Lingson Banda, testified about about how the project has started transforming their lives through production and sale of soya beans and groundnuts.
“We have a ready market for our produce, which brings us money when we need it. We are happy and looking forward to selling our mangoes when they start producing. We are assured of a market,” Banda said.
Malawi Mangoes Limited Project Manager, Victor Mshani, said the company was working with 11 cooperatives and managing 11 sites of the project.
Each cooperative has a membership of 55 farmers, according to Mshani.
As part of the project’s obligations, Malawi Mangoes Limited is drilling boreholes, installing water tanks and solar panels and laying pipes in all the 11 sites of the project to facilitate irrigation of mango trees during dry seasons.
The company has also installed wire fences around each of project sites to block livestock such as goats from feeding on the mango trees and other crops.
Mshani said the cooperatives bind the farmers to enable them to continue doing their business together innovatively and even evolve into large independent associations when the project phases out.
Farm Income Diversification Programme (FIDIP) Imprest Administrator in the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, Pearson Soko, said the government and the private sector partnership was a result of FIDP Two Top-Up, which supports farmers in various ways to address their problems.
“It is a unique programme because it builds the capacity of farmers in terms of farming and business skills and links them to markets so that they continue with their own activities and reduce their dependency on donor support when the project phases out,” Soko said.
And in her remarks, acting Director of Data and Cash Policy in the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development of Uganda, Maris Wanyera, said her delegation was impressed with the pace at which rural farmers are embracing and adapting to modern farming technologies, which are key to maximising agricultural production.
Wanyera disclosed that their government would implement what they had learnt from Malawi.
“We are impressed with how the farmers were organised here. We have noted that there is just too much idle land here that a village headman can decide to allocate a huge chunk of such land to a project to benefit people,” she said.