Engucwini Farmers’ Cooperative gearing up to tap from mega farms
Smallholder farmers in Mzimba's Engucwini Farmers' Cooperative have expressed their willingness and eagerness to benefit from the recently announced mega-farms.
Malawi: Smallholder farmers in Mzimba's Engucwini Farmers' Cooperative have expressed their willingness and eagerness to benefit from the recently announced mega-farms, effectively defying long-held beliefs and demonstrating that commercial agriculture is only for large-scale farmers, writes Watipaso Mzungu.
According to John Mlowoka, Chairperson of Engucwini Farmers' Cooperative Marketing, the establishment of mega-farms is a great opportunity for smallholder farmers to realise huge profits from their investment.
Mlowoka praised President Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera for his determination to protect farmers who have been largely at the mercy of unscrupulous traders.
He expressed these sentiments during a media tour of projects under the Sustainable Food Systems for Rural Agriculture Transformation and Resilience (TRANSFORM) Program, which Norwegian Church Aid and DanChurchAid (NCA/DCA Malawi Joint Program) are coordinating with the Development Fund of Norway (DF) and Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU).
"If given the opportunity, we are ready to take on the challenge. We are ready to pool our resources to benefit from these mega-farms," Mlowoka said.
Engucwini Farmers' Cooperative is one of the program's beneficiaries, with Find Your Feet serving as an implementing partner.
This year, the cooperative earned more than K13 million from the sale of soya beans to Paramount Holdings Limited, one of the companies identified by the TRANSFORM Program for farmers to sell their produce to.
After offering to buy the bean for K700 per kilogramme, Paramount Holdings Limited was the successful bidder.
Mlowoka stated that the government's decision to establish mega farms will increase market opportunities for their crops.
"In fact, we are now looking into obtaining an export licence. And we believe that mega-farms could be an opportunity for us to sell ourselves to buyers other than local buyers because we have learned so much from the TRANSFORM Program, such as the importance of working in teams. For example, during the previous farming season, I planted soya beans and earned over K1.4 million, a portion of which I used to purchase additional farmland and goats for livestock farming," he explained.
Malumbo Chiumia, the chairperson of Engucwini Cooperative, praised the programme for turning farmers into millionaires in Mzimba North.
According to Chiumia, the TRANSFORM Program has provided farmers with various skills such as good packaging and grading techniques, as well as encouraged them to work in groups.
"The training has helped us to make a lot of money after selling our farm products," she said, adding that the sale of her soya beans netted her K1.4 million.
She used some of the money to pay her child's Catholic University (CU) tuition and the rest to invest in livestock and groundnut farming.
Chiumia encouraged farmers across the country to join cooperatives, claiming that cooperatives assist farmers in finding better markets for their farm produce.
Tamani Nkhono Mvula, a renowned agriculture economist, recently stated that mega-farms are not only critical for the growth of the agriculture sector but also create market opportunities for smallholder farming communities.
Mvula was responding to President Chakwera's directive to the Ministry of Agriculture to expedite the establishment of mega-farms.