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Using the educated to improve farming

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I was listening to Yoneco FM’s Youths in Agriculture programme on Sunday where one of the guests shared a story about how agricultural productivity has improved in Kenya because of increased involvement of the working class in farming.

The guest said it has become a trend in Kenya for people working in offices in the city to trek to rural areas during weekends where many of them have ventured into the production of fruits and vegetables to supplement their incomes from employment.

As a result, Kenya is not only experiencing a boom in farming businesses but also in the production of quality fruits and vegetables which find their way into supermarkets, supplied by the urban farmers from their gardens in the village.

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The same is the case with crops such as maize, rice and legumes where the increased involvement of working class people, including the youth, with diplomas and degrees in farming has seen a sharp increase in the production and quality of the crops.

Working class people in Malawi can also help improve agricultural productivity in the country if many of them went into farming in a serious and commercial way.

Many of us already support farming of our folks in the village but this is largely limited to acquisition of fertiliser and payment of labour, with the actual real work still left to the relatives using archaic methods such as the planting of multiple seeds per station and using of hoes for tillage.

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The working class, however, can support and further boost food security, commercial farming, agricultural productivity and the national economy if they extended their farming to commercial level.

This means increasing the level of investment through increase in the hectarage, introduction of some mechanisation such as ploughs, use of modern farming methods as well as installation of basic irrigation equipment to beat climate change and grow crops beyond the rainy season.

This can be financed through normal incomes and savings, employer guaranteed loans and even borrowing from workplace savings and credit cooperatives. Such means and facilities are not easily available to most ordinary farmers, yet the working class are largely only using them for consumptive spending.

Investing such resources in farming, however, will not only improve agricultural productivity but will also create extra incomes lines for the working class and help them grow financially.

Apart from the ability to raise resources, another positive thing about the educated is that they easily understand, embrace and put into practice new knowledge – an aspect that is very key to Malawi’s efforts to improve its agriculture.

The majority of farmers in Malawi are only able to produce just a fraction of what can be produced on the same size of land largely because of continued use of outdated methods of farming.

We still have farmers who recycle seed, who plant several seeds per station for maize and who apply the first fertiliser weeks after planting because these are the things they have seen their parents doing and have no plan to abandon them.

The working class’s desire to produce more and make profits from the farming, however, would most likely see them adopt methods that could help them maximise earnings from the farms.

They could also become role models for the subsistence farmers who may get convinced to change their methods of farming once they others thriving through new ways of doing things.

The story featured on this place last week of one Rose Chisowa – the university graduate who is flourishing through farming in Lilongwe, should serve as a motivator to the working class, the youth and university graduates to consider

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