By Tione Andsen
Balaka, October 31, Mana: Cotton farmers in Balaka are optimist that they have a potential to increase productivity of the crop to the expected levels.
Chairperson for Cotton Farmers Association (COFA) in Balaka, Dymex Funsani disclosed this Saturday in Balaka to journalists during media tour organized by Civil Society Agriculture Network (CISANET) which is implementing a project in the district called Strengthening inclusive Agriculture Sector Growth and Sustainable Natural Resource Governance in Malawi which is being financed by United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
He said Rivirivi Extension Planning Area (EPA) has been producing quality cotton products for years but the crop was affected due to frequent dry spells, emerging new cotton pests and lack of proper structured markets.
Funsani noted the continued use of local cotton seed variety had negative effects to the production of the crop as it was low yielding and prone to pests such as Mealy bug and Jassids.
“We are now set to revive the growing of cotton to large scales after being introduced to high yielding variety from India by Farmers Union of Malawi (FUM) with the help of CISANET. We have noted that the new cotton varieties are not prone to pests,” he observed.
Funsani added that the use of the high yielding variety for the past two growing season has helped to boost their crop production and farmers are able to have 30 bales per hectares.
The Chairperson said FUM has encouraged farmers Rivirivi EPA to establish cooperatives in order to attain collective bargaining of their sales of their cotton products.
“We have farmers clubs that have been trained and are ready to form cooperatives within the EPA,” he added.
Funsani believes that collective bargaining on the sale cotton products would help famers to earn more unlike what was happening in the past where buyers were imposing prices on them.
Agriculture Extension Development Coordinator for Rivirivi EPA, Godfrey Magowela said they are working with FUM in the area in order to increase cotton production.
He said FUM has provided capacity building opportunities to cotton farmers in order to increase cotton production in the EPA.
“Farmers were provided with hybrid seeds and pesticides which were used at demonstration plots where lead farmers are responsible to orient other famers. The demonstration plots have enhanced extension services as it has accorded more farmers to learn in groups,” Magowela added.
He said the only set back to farmers was the accessibility of the cotton seeds which was being sold at K 13,000 for 500 g packet.
Chairperson for Civil Society Organization Network in Balaka, John Bamusi pointed out that they signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with CISANET in May, 2021 in which they are agreed to work together in implementation of the project.
He said they are working with them to come up with strategy plan and issue paper for the district.
Bamusi said Balaka as a disaster prone district need to focus on increasing agricultural productivity by cultivating more for consumption and sale.