A story about how Mchinji-based Machichi Cooperative members work around the clock to combat poverty
Veronica Zabuka, 45, took a bold step in 2008 when she decided to join Machichi Farmers Cooperative, a group that started with 200 members in Chioshya EPA in Mchinji district, central Malawi.
Malawi: Veronica Zabuka, 45, took a bold step in 2008 when she decided to join Machichi Farmers Cooperative, a group that started with 200 members in Chioshya EPA in Mchinji district, central Malawi.
The cooperative now has 54 members with shares.
Kabuka, who is a divorcee, says she was tired of being taken advantage of by local vendors when it came to selling her farm produce.
"Joining this cooperative was the best option for me because, as a group, we can determine the prices of our farm produce rather than allowing vendors to do so," she says.
Kabuka, a mother of five, claims that as a member of the cooperative, she also gets access to loans and farming advice from agriculture experts.
"That's not all: I've also managed to send my children to school, and I always have enough food for my family, unlike in the past when we could go without food," she says, adding that her dream is to have her house iron-thatched by next year.
Kabuka says she was also able to purchase a bicycle, which her family uses for various chores, and she thanks various organisations and institutions for their assistance, including Transformation Agriculture through Diversification and Entrepreneurship (Trade).
If you are in Malawi, you can listen to the Chichewa interview that we had with Kabuka below.
Kabuka is not the only Machichi Cooperative member who benefits from the group; McLin Eneya, the cooperative's treasurer, is another member who has a positive story to share.
Eneya says that he has benefited from the group in a variety of ways since 2018.
He says that he has been able to pay school fees for his son up to college level, as well as purchase an oxcart and four cattle.
"I also plan to buy a motorcycle and a car in the near future," he says.
But how did Eneya's adventure begin?
He says it all started in 2018 when he and other cooperative members received a loan of soya seeds, each receiving 25kg.
“I harvested 18 bags the following year. I lent eleven of those bags to other members, and they paid me back 27 bags the following year. Then, after distributing the soya loans to other members, I received 50 bags. So that's what I've been doing the entire time,” he says.
For those in Malawi, here is the rest of the Chichewa interview we had with Eneya.
While Kabuka and Eneya have both had some success as individuals, Machichi Farmers Cooperative, whose savings is K4 million, is still facing some nail-biting challenges, according to the chairperson of the cooperative, Sylvester Gelesom.
Gelesom says, for example, despite attempts by technicians to repair it, the cooking oil refinery machine donated to them years ago remains idle.
He says this makes it difficult for the group to refine their oil professionally, causing a delay in having their cooking oil certified by the Malawi Bureau of Standards (MBS).
As a result, they are unable to sell their cooking at a higher price or sell it throughout the country if it is not approved by MBS.
Machichi Cooperative chairperson also revealed that the ongoing power outages have been a huge blow to their work, particularly the peanut and cooking oil production, slowing production in most cases.
Gelesom, on the other hand, is optimistic that the arrival of TRADE, a successor to the Rural Livelihood Economic and Enhancement Programme (RLEEP), will help them gain the necessary skills, increasing their chances of having their cooking oil approved by MBS
Gelesom explains more in this Chichewa interview that we had with him.
We asked TRADE Knowledge Management and Communication Specialist Oscar Ulili for his thoughts on the opinions expressed by Machichi Cooperative members in Mchinji, and other cooperatives elsewhere.
That ends the story about how Mchinji-based Machichi Cooperative members work around the clock to combat poverty.