When farmers are propped up to improve livelihoods


By Roy Nkosi 

Agriculture remains the main livelihood strategy for many people in low and medium income countries in the world.



However, for many years, the pace of agricultural transformation and its outcomes have been disappointingly slow, according to the Future agriculture consortium, an Africa-based alliance of research organisations.


This is demonstrated by limited progress made in agro-business and agri-business development which hampers value addition and competitiveness of the products’ trade in local, regional and international markets.



In ensuring that agriculture remains key for economic growth and poverty reduction, particularly in Malawi, Ministry of Agriculture through Sustainable Agriculture Production Programme (Sapp) is working on working on transforming agriculture for shared prosperity and improved livelihoods in six districts in the country.


The districts are Blantyre, Chiradzulu, Balaka, Lilongwe, Nkhotakota and Chitipa and the project targets vulnerable farming families to scale up their production for improved livelihood.


The beneficiaries of the programme engage in legume, crop and livestock production, among others, to support themselves with food and income.


Agnes Lester from Kazondo Village, Traditional Authority Nsamala in Balaka is one of the beneficiaries having received goats in 2019 courtesy of Sapp.


Lester, who chairs Umodzi Club, says the programme did not only benefit her but also other 15 members of the club.


“They gave us 75 goats and advised us to pass on the goats to others to benefit the entire club of 45 members. Reaching this far, we have 225 goats,” she says.


Lester adds that despite facing challenges in goat farming, the members are geared to take all necessary measures to manage their livestock for increased production.


“Like this year, our goats were hit by African swine fever and fleas but we made sure that we properly and swiftly administered necessary treatment,” she says.


She further reveals that she is reaping fruits of goat farming because she is able to get manure to increase crop production.


In addition, she says, through goat farming, other members are able to get income after the sale of goats to support their children with school needs such as fees, uniform and learning materials.


“Also, goat farming is also providing us with food to improve nutrition for our children. For example, before we received the goats, cases of malnutrition in under-five children were rampant, but now the story is different. We also engage in complementary feeding sessions to teach each other on food preparation to benefit our households,” Lester says.


Olive Ntapwata Chipinda from Majamanda village, Traditional Authority Makata in Blantyre, is another beneficiary of Sapp.She testifies how the programme equipped her with skills to engage in groundnut seed multiplication for commercial purposes.


The member of Somanjala Club says the practice yields maximum proceeds such that she gets not less than K500,000 after selling groundnuts every year.


“I used to live in a dilapidated house which could profusely leak when it rained. But since I started groundnuts farming, I have been gradually transforming my life.


“I have managed to build a decent house and very soon it will be connected to electricity because I have already done everything including wiring,” Chipinda says.


She underscores the need for farmers to concentrate on groundnuts seed multiplication and participate in cooperatives to sell their produce in bulk to realise maximum profits from their toil.


“I am enjoying my farming because I belong to Somanjala Club and we bargain and sell our produce as a group and in so doing fetching better prices,” Chipinda boasts.


Wallace Naluso, Secretary for Somanjala Club in Majamanda Village, concurs with Chipinda. He says the benefits of groundnut seed multiplication are enormous.


He says based on his assessment of Somanjala Club members’ progress, many have bought valuable household assets, built decent houses and are supporting their children with school necessities through farming.


“In my case, last season, I planted 20 kilogrammes of groundnuts on my one-acre field and realised 200kg. After selling the groundnuts, I realised K390,000,” Naluso says.


He adds that Sapp also equipped club members with livestock production management skills and provided them with over K4 million to venture into dairy production courtesy of Village Challenge Fund.


“We bought nine cows last year which we distributed to nine members. Our plan is to pass them on to other farmers so that every club member benefits,” he says.


Apart from seed multiplication and livestock production, Naluso says the members were also trained in manure making and other improved crop husbandry practices like mulching to increase crop production thereby achieve food security at all levels.

“Today, from a small piece of land, I am able to harvest ten bags of 50kg of maize, yet previously, I could harvest only one bag,” he says.


Hopeson Simbota, an agricultural extension worker in Blantyre Agricultural Development Division, says so far considerable transformation has taken place in the lives of farming families in different districts.


“As an agriculture office, we provide necessary advice with regards to seed multiplication to the farmers and they follow them accordingly and, in turn, realise improved better returns,” Simbota says.


He then advises farmers across the country to practise seed multiplication of various crops to ensure the availability of locally made seeds on the market.


Another agriculture extension worker, Linley Banda, says she is excited that many farmers are reaping better returns from their ventures.


Banda, who is also the desk officer for Lunzu Extension Planning Area responsible for farming and business, hails Village Challenge Fund for boosting dairy farming in Malawi.


“In years to come, we expect to have an increase in the number of farmers engaging in dairy farming. This will ensure there is enough milk to be supplied to both local and international markets,” she says.—Mana

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