Agriculture fairs in Malawi have boosted our wellbeing, say women farmers
Media consultant Paida Kadzakumanja recently visited two agricultural projects implemented by the Farmers Union of Malawi and funded by the Government of Flanders. After meeting with the beneficiaries, she wrote three articles about the projects.
The District Stakeholder Panels project (2013-2016) is a three-year project which aims to improve agricultural extension services in Malawi. Tamanya Haraw, the Director of Planning and Development at Mzimba District Council, recently praised the project for promoting and strengthening the participation of farmers in policy formulation and implementation at district level. Through the creation of District Stakeholder Panels, the project brings together government, agricultural organisations and the farmers themselves. One of the innovations, introduced by the Panels, are Agriculture Fairs that provide a link to markets for the farmers, as well as keeping them informed of new technologies and improved production methods and agricultural practices.
Another project is the Sustainable Trade Project (2012-2015) focusing on capacity building of female households by increasing their incomes through the production and sale of chickens. Vulnerable women in the Mzimba District are now earning stable incomes through this breeding project. A follow up project (2015-2020) on nutrition programmes using the chicken programme as a benchmark has been awarded MK2 billion.
This article discusses the agriculture fairs under the District Stakeholder Panels project.
Women in Mzimba District, Traditional Authority Khosolo, say agriculture fairs introduced by the Farmers Union of Malawi have helped improve their livelihoods.
Addressing experts during a recent field tour, Chairperson of Malikano Club, Judith Phiri, said she has participated in two agriculture fairs where she has not only learnt how to prepare her farm optimally, but where she has also managed to sell her crops.
“I am a mother of six children and for a long time I have struggled to use modern methods for taking care of my farm. Usually this has resulted in low harvests. But with the agriculture fairs in place, I have learnt many technologies because it’s a platform that brings together different stakeholders including extension workers”.
“In addition, I have also used the fairs to sell my commodities and to buy better seeds which I did not posses before. This has been very good for me and it’s been a good opportunity for the other women of the village too” she said.
Agriculture Fairs were introduced under the project ‘Integrating and strengthening capacity of farmers into district stakeholder panels for improved agricultural extension service delivery in Malawi’, financed by the Government of Flanders as one way of not only encouraging farmers to produce more, but also link them to markets.
Former District Agriculture Development Officer for Mzimba, Lexer Munthali, said as a result of the successful agriculture fairs in Mzimba, Kasungu and Rumphi, the fairs are now being held in every district. He said farmers in Mzimba benefited from the fairs because they were also being used as exhibition platforms where certain agricultural practices were demonstrated.
“We thought it necessary to implement the agriculture fairs across all the districts in Malawi due to the large impact they had. The concept also aroused farmers’ interests to the point where we had thousands of farmers from other nearby districts as well.
“As part of the exhibitions, farmers were being taught how to make compost manure and how to dry their crops in order to fetch better prices” he said.
Modesta Mlia Tembo, who is Project Coordinator at the Farmers Union of Malawi, said the fairs have helped women in particular to ably take care of their families.
“Many men in the village like to drink and hence neglect their families, but in this case, the women are targeted and therefore the entire family benefits. The project also increases the confidence of women. Some women now own grocery shops from the proceeds of agriculture,” she said.