Opportunities in Malawi’s horticulture industry


There have been calls to explore other sectors that could drive the Malawi economy. For Ngabaghila Chatata, proprietor and Managing Director of Thanthwe Enterprises in Lilongwe, horticulture is a potential area.

The Malawi Strengthening Inclusive Markets for Agriculture (Msika) Project seems to have come to address just that.

“All that is needed are proper frameworks to support the sector right from production, marketing and processing of horticultural crops into finished products,” Chatata said.


Specifically, the project, being implemented by Land O’Lakes International Development (ID) with funding from the United States Department for Agriculture (USDA), is looking at boosting the production of fruits (mangoes, guava and citrus) and vegetables (tomatoes, onions, Irish potatoes and chilies).

Speaking during the launch of the project earlier this month at Sunbird Capital Hotel, Land O’Lakes ID Malawi Country Director and Chief of Party for the project, Timothy Nzioka, explained that the overall objective of Msika are to increase agricultural productivity and trade of the above mentioned crops.

“In order to achieve these objectives, Land O’Lakes ID in Malawi will be embarking on several activities through the Msika Project. Some of these include conducting trainings on improved agricultural production, post-harvest handling and processing; boosting infrastructure for post-harvest handling and storage; training producer groups and cooperatives in aggregation and value addition; facilitating buyer-seller relationships; promoting access to financial services by facilitating agricultural lending; and improving the environment by contributing to the development of the horticulture policy for Malawi,” Nzioka outlined.


The Msika Project targets agri-business minded farmers. These are expected to act as role models. In so doing, Nzioka says, they are hopeful the project will have meaningful impact in the long run.

“The Msika Project has been designed to target medium and large scale fruits and vegetable farmers. We believe these are the engines of Malawi’s economic growth. Small scale farmers will be encouraged to form cooperatives so that they have bargaining power in the market when buying inputs as well as selling their produce,” Nzioka explained.

Chatata said she is excited with the launch of the Msika Project. According to her, she is happy that the project will include a lot of knowledge sharing on boosting horticultural crops, but also facilitate market access.

“Thanthwe Enterprises looks forward to working with Land O’Lakes on this project. We already grow vegetables like tomatoes, onions, herbs, cucumber and lettuce. Despite the positives we have had in producing these crops, we have challenges in accessing organised markets, especially export opportunities.

“In addition, there is no policy guidance on horticulture; hence, I am happy that Land O’Lakes through the Msika Project is going to assist in working on some of these issues, and we are ready to partner them,” explained Chatata.

And as one way of showing her preparedness to partner the Msika Project, Chatata said one of the Yankho™ Plots (demonstration plots) for the project will be mounted on her farm.

“Having the Yankho™ Plot right here on my farm will enable me to quickly learn agronomic practices to be applied on the Yankho™ Plot. I will then transfer those practices to my farm. I will benefit quite a lot,” Chatata said.

The Msika Project has incorporated value addition and processing. Nzioka said this was done after noting that fruits and vegetables are highly perishable, and a lot of farmers lose their produce.

“We realise that a lot of farmers lose lots of produce to wastage. This is due to lack of storage facilities and infrastructure, but also inability to add value and process raw agricultural produce into finished products,” Nzioka explained.

Mwaiwathu Women Tomato Cooperative stands to benefit from the processing component. This grouping of 92 women around Dedza processes tomatoes into jam.

Kiliana Nkhwanje, Chairperson of the cooperative, said the group has capacity to produce over 200 bottles of jam each week, but their most pressing challenge is getting certification with the Malawi Bureau of Standards (MBS).

“All the jam we produce is sold locally around Dedza. Sometimes MBS officials confiscate our products from shops. We are happy that the Msika Project has a component of product certification with Malawi Bureau of Standards (MBS).

“We want to take advantage to have our jam certified. With certification, we are sure that we will be able to reach more markets in big cities like Lilongwe, Blantyre, Mzuzu, Zomba and the rest of the towns in Malawi,” Nkhwanje said.

During the launch of the Msika Project, Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, Joseph Mwanamvekha, who was the guest of honour, called upon horticultural farmers and other players in fruits and vegetable value chains to take advantage of the opportunities which the Msika Project presents.

He also called upon chain stores to absorb locally produced fruits and vegetables so that they promote the socio-economic development of the country.

“It is disappointing that chain stores in Malawi are unable to absorb locally produced fruits and vegetables, yet farmers throw away most of the agricultural products they toil to produce,” Mwanamvekha said.

Other dignitaries who attended the launch of the project include the Deputy Administrator for USDA Jocelyn Brown, the US Ambassador, Virginia Palmer, and the Senior Vice-President for Land O’Lakes ID John Ellenberger, among others.

Speaking during the launch, Ellenberger thanked USDA for the support towards the MSIKA project.

“Land O’Lakes’ presence in Malawi and its work would not be so successful without continued support from our traditional donors, namely USDA and USaid. I am also thankful to the government of Malawi, private sector players and farmers who have always welcomed and owned the projects we have implemented,” Ellenberger said.

Taking her turn, Jocelyn Brown reiterated USDA’s commitment towards supporting developmental interventions in underprivileged countries like Malawi.

“Let me state that USDA is committed towards supporting initiatives like the Msika Project in Malawi, and it is our hope that the project lives to successfully achieve the ambitious targets it has set,” Brown said.

The project, funded to the tune of $17 million, will be implemented in five districts of Lilongwe, Mchinji, Dedza, Ntcheu and Mangochi until September 2021.

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