Marketing capacity building project uplifting farming communities in Mzimba and Kasungu
The project entitled “Marketing capacity building for smallholder farmers” (MCB), supported by the Government of Flanders, promotes market-oriented agriculture amongst smallholder farmers, through Farmer Field Schools (FFS), in the districts of Kasungu and Mzimba in Malawi.
On a recent field visit to these areas, Deputy General Representative of Flanders, Dr. Sofie Geerts, spoke to several farmers whose stories and personal experiences testify to the success of this project.
Paikani Chipeta, Mzimba District, explained how he benefited from the Farmer Field School training after years of growing beans with little to show for his labour: “I harvested 991 kg, where previously I would harvest 486 kg on one hectare of land.” From his increased earnings, he bought a cow, thus venturing into livestock enterprise. He also bought four bags of fertilizer which he used on maize that he grew in the 2020/2021 planting season.
In addition to greater yields, the creation of Farmer Field School networks or cooperatives enables farmers to sell bulk produce, providing them with greater bargaining power to negotiate fair prices. Village savings and loan schemes (VSL) allow smallholder farmers to have disposable incomes whilst savings are reinvested in agricultural activities or in accumulation of productive assets such as livestock. There are currently 538 VSL groups with 12 635 members, of which 68% are women and 36% are youth.
Sellina Moyo in Mzimba was trained on collective marketing in 2016 and has not looked back since. Through a combination of collective marketing and village savings and loan schemes (VSL), she was able to buy land and build a house where she lives with her daughter and three orphaned grandchildren. “I sold 10 bags of soya beans at MK600 through Chihepa network which fetched MK300 000. But I had also been saving through VSL and got about MK245 000 from my group. This allowed me to build the house while still having farm inputs for the planting season,” she relates.
Dorothy Chavula of Kamkunthe also joined VSL in 2016, using savings to buy cement to renovate her house. The following year she bought goats and also paid school fees for her child. From a soya harvest in the third year, she bought a motorbike which she plans to use to start a transport business for consistent income.
The MCB project will end in December 2021, but farmers are confident that the positive impacts would be sustained. Paikani summed it up: “What we have gained are life-skills and new knowledge which even after the project closes, we can maintain, use and transfer to those around us,” Paikani of Mzimba district said.