By Tione Andsen
Balaka, May 29, Mana: Smallholder farmers at Mchenga Irrigation site in Balaka have bemoaned lack of steady markets for their horticultural products.
One of the lead farmers at the site, Patson Chalamanda disclosed this Saturday during a visit as part of monitoring the implementation of Financial Access to Rural Markets Small holder Enterprise (FARMSE) funded ‘Gender Responsive Ultra Poor Graduation project’ in which Oxfam and Eagles Relief are implementing in Balaka.
He said the project has attracted the participation of more smallholder farmers but they are struggling to find proper markets for the products.
Chalamanda added farmers are subjected to low prices for their products being offered by buyers in the districts.
“We are investing more in the production of Mbeya fertilizer which is now very expensive. The outcome of our efforts results in getting low prices on the market,” the lead farmer lamented.
He said most farmers are not willing continue participating in the project since their efforts are not bearing tangible results to improve their lives.
Chalamanda asked Oxfam for the possibility of identifying steady markets in which they could sale their products on a reasonable prices to ensure that the projects was having an impact to the beneficiaries.
“We have said this for more than twice for identification of steady markets to several authorities to help us gain better prices for our commodities,” he added.
Oxfam Malawi Country Director, Lingalireni Mihowa said the issue of structured markets for horticultural products was indeed a borne of concern in the country.
She said government was aware that there are not farm gate prices for horticultural products as was the case with other crops like maize, beans, rice and cassava.
Mihowa said project beneficiaries need to improve their livelihood and they need to sale their products at an attract prices which should encourage them to do more.
“We believe the creation of the steady markets can be done within or outside the district. We need to link the project beneficiaries to schools, hospitals and super markets to supply their products with better pricing,” Country Director said.
Eagles Relief Project Officer in Balaka, George Kachiwala admitted that smallholder farmers were facing some challenges to contain pests in the gardens for the past three to four years.
He said the emergency of different type of pests has contributed to the lowing of yields but efforts are being made to reverse the situation.