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Women benefit from Sustainable Trade Project focusing on chicken

Women benefit from Sustainable Trade Project focusing on chicken

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 Sustainable Trade Project.

Emma Ndabandabo was given three half breed chickens at the beginning of the project in 2012. Four years later, she has over 50 chickens in her back yard.

She says owning chickens and having a stable income has given her family better status and has helped her to become part of the community.

Emma is a widow and before the project she lived in dire poverty. Her four children were often sick and two children had dropped out of school.

"I could no longer support my children to go to school.  There was simply no money to take care of their needs in school," she said.

Through the Sustainable Trade Project, she owns a vegetable garden and has opened a grocery shop. She uses the proceeds to pay for the school fees of her children.

Emma is one of the thousand women that benefitted from the project, financed by the Government of Flanders. The project had the objective to build capacity of female households to increase incomes through the production and sales of chickens. The project introduced a new chicken variety obtained after crossing local chickens with a highly productive variety. 

The project was implemented by the Farmers Union of Malawi (FUM) and targeted vulnerable women in ‘Chitafika Producers and Marketing Cooperative of Champhira’ and ‘Takumanapo Women’s' Transformative Producers and Marketing Preoperative of Khosolo’ in Mzimba District.

Selina Nkhata, who is Secretary of Chitafika Producers and Marketing Corperative, said the project has helped improve the nutritional status in her home.

According to Selina, the lives of many women in the villages in Mzimba are very poor because the only income they have comes from farming.

"We basically only cultivated the land. Of course we had chickens, but due to poor management most of them died. But when the project came, we were first of all sensitised and trained on how to manage the chickens. We were also trained on how to handle vaccinations and drugs in the event the chicks are sick," she said.

Selina further said that women have built kraals and, in some cases, own as many as 100 chickens.

"This is one of the projects that have transformed our lives. Thanks to this project, women are more independent and are able to take care of their families themselves. This project has given us the necessary push we needed," she said.

Now, six months after the project end, the chicken pass-on programme is continuing. 700 more women have been brought in as new beneficiaries, bringing the amount of women groups up from 2 to 15.

In addition, in 2015 FUM was awarded a five year scaling up project on nutrition amounting to MK2 billion, using the chicken project as a benchmark.

Modesta Mila Tembo, Project Coordinator for FUM and nutritionist by profession, said the first phase of the project targeted 300 women and this was upscaled to 700 women after the support of the Flemish Government ended.

Tembo said that a district report from the government revealed that malnutrition was a serious issue.

“At a certain moment the women produced so many eggs that we struggled to find them markets beyond the village. Since these women were already growing Soya, Cassava, Groundnuts and the like, we used the chickens’ eggs for mixing with cassava leaves. When FUM wrote a project proposal based on the results of this small project, we were awarded a grant from the government under the Agriculture Sector Wide Approach,” she said.

Mila further said she was amazed at how the project is carrying itself out even after the official project was completed.

"Once some projects are completed, everything ends there but this project has left lasting traces and women’s' lives have improved for the better. Looking at how it was in the beginning and now, we have seen women buying goats, roofing houses and even buying fertilizer," she said.

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