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Tomatoes: a juicy business

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By Emmanuel International and UN World Food Programme:

For years, farmers in Khosola Village in Zomba district struggled to produce enough food to feed their families. Farmers could not afford to buy quality seeds for cash crops and other farm inputs.  As a result, residents of Khosola village and surrounding villages were food insecure.

“Life was really hard. There were times my family would go to bed on an empty stomach – literally no food in the house,” said Kingston Bakili, 58, a resident of Khosola Village, married with 9 children.

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In 2017, with the support of the World Food Programme (WFP) and cooperating partner Emmanuel International, with funding from USAID, a small-scale irrigation scheme was constructed in the area.

The irrigation scheme uses gravitation force to channel water in a tunnel directly to the field where it drips slowly into the soil where the crops are, only wetting the immediate root area. It is thus a very water-efficient irrigation system that uses small amount of water.

“Although I had a small backyard garden, it was not enough to feed my family. My piece of land was located in a dry place far away from water wells,” he said.

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Construction of the irrigation scheme has brightened up farming life in the area. “Life has completely changed. Everything in the community is different now,” said Kingston. “Water is right in my farm.”

To boost financial status of farmers in the area, WFP in partnership with Emmanuel International has introduced Village Savings and Loans in the area.

“All along I struggled to raise money to buy seeds and other farm inputs,” said Kingston. “After joining Titukulane Village Savings and Loans group, I saved some money which enabled me to obtain a loan.”

Tomato farming

A Village Savings and Loan (VSL) is a group of people who collectively support each other for saving money and offer loans at a local-level for communities who do not have ready access to formal financial services such as banks or microfinance institutions.

Interests accrued from loans are shared out to all members at the end of the year according to their level of contribution to the total amount saved by the group.  The more you invest during the year, the higher the proportion of the total interest you receive.

VSLs increase smallholder farmers’ ability to purchase food, agricultural inputs, invest in income generating activities, cover the cost of education and health-related expenses, and diversify their livelihoods. Under WFP’s programmes, while most of the VSL groups were formed by women (69 percent), 2020 saw an increase of men and youth joining.

“I bought seeds and seedlings that I planted in my field. It is hard for a person like me to access loans from banks because I don’t have an account there,” Kingston explained.

Kingston harvested twice with off-season planting. With what he has invested (MK 73,000), he is expected to make MK400,000

WFP’s livelihoods programme, with the support of USAID, aims to improve vulnerable people’s ability to adapt to climate change through various interventions such as diversified agricultural production and enhanced access to income generating activities to improve livelihoods of food insecure communities in line with Malawi’s National Resilience Strategy.

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