When Silino Chabuka finished his Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) and an accounting certificate under ICAM Board, he decided to venture into tobacco farming.
Briefly into the industry, it looked distant that he would ever make it big in the industry.
But something happened and almost from out of the blues, he was in a position to afford a good house, three vehicles –a five ton Fuso Fighter truck, a two ton Mitsubishi Canter and a Toyota double Cab –all this just at the age of 36.
That was when he became a contract farmer under Limbe Leaf Tobacco Company.
A married man with four children, Chabuka comes from Philemon Wato Village in Senior Chief Mpherembe in Mzimba district.
He started tobacco farming in 2003. During that time, he was growing two hectares of Flue Cured Virginia (FCV) and a hectare of Northern Division Dark Fired (NDDF).
His average yield used to be 18 bales of FCV and 8 bales of NDDF with a marginal profit of about K300, 000.
“I could barely break even and I was making losses most of the times,” says Chabuka.
Soon afterwards, Chabuka became a contracted farmer under Limbe Leaf.
While growing the same tobacco varieties on the same hectarage of land, his yield increased to an average of 30 bales of funded FCV and 12 bales of NDDF with a net profit of K700, 000.
His financial muscle started to grow.
Contract farming afforded him the opportunity of timely technical messages on good agricultural practices and increased interaction with his designated leaf technicians.
This helped him to produce high quality leaf that earned better prices on the market.
Through the company’s combined social responsibility programmes, he has constructed seven rocket barns which have been instrumental in improving his tobacco curing techniques and uniformity in quality and yield.
Chabuka further acquired a ridger and plough that have significantly reduced labour costs on his farm.
Training on agricultural labour practices, specifically in financial management has equipped him with better financial skills of managing his farming business, he says.
Because of his new-found financial opportunity, Chabuka has progressively increased his hectarage of growing tobacco over the years. He currently grows four hectares of FCV which is funded by the company and eight hectares of self-funded FCV. He also self-finances two hectares of burley tobacco.
Chabuka generates additional income for the household through his transport business. He is currently planning to purchase farm inputs for the next growing season and also finish constructing a house in Mzuzu City.
Apart from tobacco farming, Chabuka also grows soya, groundnuts and maize as well as rearing goats and poultry on his farm.
In order to work with the company on sustainable tobacco production, he has planted and manages two hectares of exotic trees as well as two hectares of indigenous trees.
Chabuka is educating his four children at a reputable private school, Wukani Education Facility, in Mzuzu.
“I encourage my fellow farmers to move to contract farming because there are many benefits. I never thought I would achieve all that I have today, but thanks to the partnership with Limbe Leaf for helping me realise my potential, my life has changed for the better over the years,” says Chabuka.
Limbe Leaf Head of Corporate Affairs Febbie Chikungwa says the company takes pride in farmers such as Chabuka who are able to demonstrate how significantly their livelihoods have changed because of tobacco farming.
“Over the years research has demonstrated that there is a significant relationship between education of a farmer and adoption of new modern agricultural technologies,” Chikungwa says.
According to her, the story of Chabuka has proved that his educational background coupled with continued training can help farmers maximise his potential within a short period of time.
“He also demonstrates that farmers can be under contract farming and also finance their own inputs. Limbe Leaf would then continue with the partnership and provide technical assistance during extension services.
“The company would like to see many contracted farmers’ progress and be able to finance farm inputs themselves in order to maximise their profits,” says Chikungwa.
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