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Rose Chisowa: young farmer selling on Facebook

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Rose Chisowa is a journalism degree graduate from the University of Malawi aged around 30 who is breaking new grounds in the field of farming.

She has not only defied odds by venturing into farming instead of being in the newsroom writing stories. She also uses Facebook to sell her farm produce.

“I get most of my customers through Facebook. At first, it was just about me talking about my farming adventures and putting pictures of my crops on Facebook. Before I realised, I started getting inquiries and now get lots of orders through Facebook, including from my former college-mates,” she says.

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She currently has a large field of tomatoes and has already secured a market for them at one of the major international chain stores in the country.

Rose’s story is not only about innovative marketing but she is also walking the talk of commercial farming through her venture named Rose Farm on the outskirts of Lilongwe City.

After trying out several development communications jobs, Rose says she has settled into farming and does not want to get into employment again.

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She started out with poultry and piggery about three years ago and is now a fully fledged farmer, rearing several types of animals and growing a variety of crops under both red-fed and irrigation farming.

Breathtaking acres of rice paddy, lush green fields of maize and tomatoes and stretches of water canals define Rose’s farm at Shangula Village, Traditional Authority Kalolo, a few kilometres from Nsundwe Trading Centre in Lilongwe, 35 kilometres from the city, on the road to Mchinji.

She now not only employs herself but also many labourers around the village and has now installed an irrigation system that has made it possible for her to grow crops even after the rains have stopped.

Rose also owns her own pick-up vehicle which she uses to transport inputs and delivery orders in Lilongwe.

Her plan is to acquire a tractor.

“I desperately need a tractor because labour costs are just too high here. They take up most of my working capital. If I get a tractor, I will be able to not only cut labour costs but also till more land than is the case at the moment,” Rose says.

“I tried hiring a tractor from the government but I have been on the waiting list for six months. I have given up now but I will buy my own tractor soon once I sell the tomato in the field now,” she says.

She currently has six acres of land, of which two is being used for the piggery and poultry business. She is still in the process of acquiring more land and hopes to have 10 acres by the beginning of the rain season.

She says she is happy with the returns from farming and does not want to get back into employment.

“I don’t think there is any job that can pay me what I make from here. I’m now financially secure, very independent and very happy. All I think about now is expanding my farm to grow myself into a large-scale farmer,” Rose says.

Her biggest challenge is non-availability of finance to help her grow.

“No bank wants to support me. I could already have acquired a tractor if the banks were willing to lend me some money.

“It puzzles me that we talk about Malawi being an agricultural-based economy yet banks don’t want to support farmers, especially young ones like me,” she says.

She says she also lacks extension support and her efforts to access the services have been to no avail.

“You know I have no background in agriculture, so I need guidance at times but I have not been able to get the extension service from the Ministry of Agriculture,” she says.

She encourages fellow youths, including university graduates, to venture into farming.

“You don’t need much capital to venture into farming. Start small and use proceeds to expand. Before you realise, you will be earning millions of kwacha which you can’t get from employment. I’m the living example,” Rose says.

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