By Francis Thawani:
UN World Food Programme
Lack of skills to handle and store harvest is one of the biggest challenges Malawian smallholder farmers face. Imagine that a third of their hard-earned yields is lost to rodents, weevils and rotting barely a few months after harvesting. Imagine what one farmer could do if all that food was not wasted? Now imagine with millions of food-insecure farmers?
For members of Gwiritse Cooperative in Lilongwe district, Malawi post-harvest losses are now history. Timothy Katumbu, 60, and his wife Alice, from Mchoka village used to keep his produce in a locally made granary and would lose part of that to rodents. Plus, he struggled to find buyers for his low-quality produce. Following the construction of a warehouse in his area, he has been storing his produce in a secure place since 2016.
“Before joining the cooperative, I was losing at least 10 percent of my produce as I was using ineffective methods. Through the cooperative, I have learned improved technologies and practices that have helped reduce the grain loss and now I make more profits,” says Timothy.
“I’ve also learnt to keep records which helps me understand better how much profit I make, my expenses and plan better for the next season. Now, I farm for business not just to feed my family.”
“I also receive crop price text messages on my phone which help me make sound decisions on where and when to sell my produce,” concludes Timothy.
Rufina Deodatu, 44, from Khalachulu village joined Gwiritse Cooperative in 2016 and started keeping her produce in the warehouse in 2017. Unlike in the past, now through the cooperative, she has access to loans and market information which helps her fetch better prices on the market.
“Previously I was selling my produce to vendors who always dictated the prices. Being an individual seller, I had no power to negotiate better prices. But now, since I joined the cooperative, I’ve seen the power of numbers, we can negotiate better prices with traders, if one declines, we move to the next till we get right prices for our produce,” says Rufina.
“I would struggle to buy even soap, sugar, cooking oil and other food needs. Now I can afford these. I comfortably pay school fees for my 4 children,” Rufina adds.
“I’ve used part of the money from previous years to buy livestock. I sell the livestock to buy fertilizers. I also use dung from the livestock to apply in my gardens,” concludes Rufina.
Thanks to the support of Development Partners (the Government of Flanders, Germany, Switzerland, United Kingdom and Unites Stated of America), the World Food Programme is working with the Government of Malawi to develop a full package of interventions to break the cycle of hunger in the country.