The current five-year strategic partnership between Flanders and Malawi is outlined in the Country Strategy Paper (CSP) 2019-2023, and focuses on the agricultural sector, more specifically on extension services, market-oriented farming and sustainable land management. The CSP guides the programming of projects and supports continuous monitoring and evaluation by Flanders and its implementing partners to measure the projects’ success and impact.
These processes provide a narrative with numbers, graphs and measurement indicators. However, that is only a part of the story. The real impact and value of a project can only be ascertained at grass roots level. With this in mind, we interviewed 55 beneficiaries of Flanders-funded projects in Malawi to understand the impact, if any, on their lives.
Real impact is not represented in number or graphs; it is told by people. Theirs is the real story.
Benson Mhone - Marketing Capacity Building Project (FAO)
Benson Mhone is 41 years old and is married with 3 children. In 2016, he was trained on climate smart planning procedures through the farmer field schools channel. The training formed part of a project funded by Flanders and entitled “Marketing Capacity Building Project”.
The skills he acquired were put to good use as he began to increase his harvests and the quality of the maize and soybeans he had planted. The project encourages group selling and by aggregating his crops with other farmers, Benson has been able to obtain better prices than previously. He has consistently used his growing income to improve the living standard of his family and to acquire livestock. He explained:
“In 2017 I made MK250,000 after the harvest, which I used to mould bricks for a new house because I was living is a dilapidated house. In 2018 I made over MK630,000, which I used to buy pigs, chickens, and I then built the house I stay in now. In the 2021/22 season, I made over MK720,000, which I used to buy iron sheets for my house, and more livestock such as goats. I now have 12 pigs, 3 goats and 22 chickens.”
Benson now mentors other farmers on the practice and benefits of crop aggregation. He also connects with various cooperatives through social media platforms to acquire relevant market information and thus get better prices for his produce. In the short term, Benson will floor his house with cement and buy a motorcycle; in the longer term, he plans to buy a passenger service vehicle.
The “Marketing Capacity Building Project” implemented by the FAO, ran from December 2015 to December 2022 in the Mzimba and Kasungu districts. The project focused on capacity building of the decentralized institutions of the Ministry of Agriculture. As a result, these institutions could, in turn, facilitate and coordinate support to smallholder farmer households to grow higher volumes of produce for market in a profitable and sustainable way. Beneficiaries were 1,000 farmer organisations comprising 30,000 farmers. The project aligned with the MoA’s objective of promoting market-oriented farming as well as Pillar 1 of Malawi’s Vision 2063, namely “Agricultural Productivity and Commercialization”. Implementing partners were the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, the Kasungu Agricultural Development Division and the Mzuzu Agricultural Development Division.