By Watipaso Mzungu – Malawi Exclusive
Smallholder farmers under the Mzimba-based Engucwini Farmers’ Cooperative have expressed readiness and keenness to benefit from the recently announced mega farms effectively defying well-established beliefs and proving that commercial agriculture is a preserve for large-scale farmers.
Engucwini Farmers’ Cooperative Marketing Chairperson, John Mlowoka, said the establishment of mega farms is a great opportunity for smallholder farmers to realize huge profits from their investment.
Mlowoka therefore commended President Dr. Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera for his resolve to protect the farmers who have largely been at the mercy of unscrupulous traders.
He made the sentiments in an interview with journalists of a media tour of the projects under the Sustainable Food Systems for Rural Agriculture Transformation and Resilience (TRANSFORM) Program, Norwegian Church Aid and DanChurchAid (NCA/DCA Malawi Joint Program) is coordinating alongside the Development Fund of Norway (DF), and Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU).
“We are ready to take up the challenge should we be given a chance. We are ready to pool our resources together to benefit from these mega farms,” said Mlowoka.
Engucwini Farmers’ Cooperative is one of the beneficiaries of the programme through Find Your Feet as an implementing partner.
This year, the cooperative realized over K13 million from the sale of their soya beans to Paramount Holdings Limited, one of the companies TRANSFORM Program identified for the farmers to sell their produce to.
Paramount Holdings Limited emerged the successful bidder after offering to buy the bean at K700 per kilogramme.
Mlowoka said the government’s decision to establish mega farms will further broaden their market opportunities for their crops.
“In fact, we are now eyeing to get export license. And we feel mega farms could be an opportunity for us to sell ourselves beyond local buyers because we have learned a lot from the TRANSFORM Program, such as the importance of working in teams. For example, in the last farming season, I planted soya beans and earned over K1.4 million, part of which I used to buy additional land for farming and goats for livestock farming,” he narrated.
Chairperson of Engucwini Cooperative chairperson, Malumbo Chiumia, hailed the program for transforming farmers into millionaires in Mzimba North.
Chiumia said through the TRANSFORM Program, farmers have been empowered with various skills such as good packaging and grading techniques as well as it has encouraged them to work in a group.
“The training has helped us to make a lot of money after selling our farm products,” she said, adding that realized K1.4 million from the sale of her soya beans.
She used part of the money to pay her child’s school fees at Catholic University (CU) and invested the remainder in livestock and groundnut farming.
Chiumia encouraged farmers throughout the country to join cooperatives, stating that cooperatives help farmers find better markets for their farm produce.
Recently, a renowned agriculture economics expert Tamani Nkhono Mvula said mega farms are not only critical for the growth of the agriculture sector, but also create market opportunities for smallholder farming communities.
Mvula was reacting to the directive President Chakwera had made to the Ministry of Agriculture to expedite the establishment of the mega farms.