In Malawi, many smallholder farmers face challenges in accessing profitable markets for their produce due to the increasing number of middlemen who buy the produce at low prices.
This becomes a heavy blow to these smallholders farmers to realize the benefits of farming.
As such, in an effort to improve the resilience capacities of smallholder farmers in Kasungu district, the Catholic Development Commission in Malawi (CADECOM), Lilongwe in partnership with Caritas Australia, has embarked on a two-year pilot project called Malawi Innovating Optimising Farm Income (MIOFI) in Santhe Extension Planning Area (EPA).
The project aims at empowering 500 smallholder farmers in Chigodi Section so as to increase their household income, improve market linkages for them, increase the productivity and production of legumes, livestock in the area.
This is done by introducing a saving culture through establishment of Village Savings and Loan (VSL) groups, livestock pass-on system and supporting these farmers with farm inputs.
Speaking on the progress of the project, CADECOM Project Officer Tabitha Kasongo said, so far, MIOFI project has improved the livelihoods of beneficiaries in such a way that it has linked the farmers to Pyxus Agriculture Limited, which is an off-taker; hence, reducing the involvement of middlemen in buying the farmers produce at low prices.
“Our project has different interventions as such in terms of linking farmers to markets. As CADECOM, we have managed to introduce contract farming where our farmers have contracts with Pyxus Agriculture Limited which help provide our farmers with farm inputs like groundnut seeds as well as extension services and in the end offer them an available market for their produce which has been a big problem to the farmers in the area,” said Kasongo.
Kasongo explained that in meeting their objective of increasing livestock production in Chigodi section, CADECOM introduced livestock pass-on program where farmer groups are given chickens and goats to raise so that after multiplication they pass-on to other group members so that everyone in the farmer groups benefits from the intervention hence improving their household livestock scale.
One of the beneficiaries, Collins Nkhoma, thanked CADECOM for the project, saying it has changed his life because he now has a market with Pyxus Agriculture Limited where he sells his produce like groundnuts at good prices.
“At first, we faced a lot of challenges in searching for good markets for our produce because middlemen used to come and buy our produce at lower prices as such with that burden our lives were not improving hence we are thanking CADECOM for coming up with the project which we are already enjoying the benefits right now,” said Nkhoma.
Nkhoma added that he never had goats before the project but now he has about 7 goats and that this is helping him a lot in improving the livelihood of his family.
On his part, CADECOM Lilongwe Coordinator Charles Matewere said CADECOM has implemented various projects around thematic areas of food, nutrition security and livelihoods, environment and natural resources management, gender, social inclusion and early childhood development, skills and entrepreneurship development across the whole of central region apart from Dedza district.
“We have reached out to hard-to-reach areas where access to social services is difficult. Furthermore, we have reached where people are really struggling. We do this in the spirit of servanthood, on behalf of the Catholic Archdiocese of Lilongwe,” said Matewere.
According to Matewere, CADECOM Lilongwe strives to ensure that the projects being implemented are sustainable hence working with government stakeholders who have permanent offices in the communities so that after the projects have phased-out, communities know which government offices will take-over with the developmental activities in the project areas.
“We do this on top of building the capacities of the local structures to ensure that we leave a mark of knowledge of development interventions right in the communities.
“We use Strength Based Approach (SBA) for local communities to realize the strength that they possess which can transform their livelihoods,” he explained.
He continued to say CADECOM uses the Rights Based Approach (RBA) to empower the disadvantaged people to stand up and demand what is right for them.
Malawi Innovating Optimising Farm Income (MIOFI) project started in July 2021 and is expected to phase out in June this year.
This pilot project has been supported with funding from Caritas Australia.