Farmer Business School concept bearing fruits in Mchinji
And it appears that no one understands and practises the concept of Farmers Business School better in Malawi than members of Nkhunguyembe FBS in TA Mkanda in Mchinji district.
Malawi: Farmers Business School (FBS) is a comprehensive adult learning approach that aims to change smallholder farmers' mindsets by sensitising them to market opportunities.
And it appears that no one understands and practises the concept of Farmers Business School better in Malawi than members of Kakuyu FBS Masumba Village in TA Mkanda in Mchinji district.
Kakuyu FBS has over 200 members and 90 lead farmers who conduct pre-season, in-season, and post-season lessons to supplement the work of government extension workers.
Nearly 1,700 extension workers currently serve nearly 4 million farmers in Malawi.
This means that one extension worker will thus serve between 2,500 and 3,000 farmers.
In the absence of extension workers, who are in short supply in the country, the lead farmers share modern farming tips with their fellow farmers through the FBS.
According to the members, some of the benefits of the FBS include understanding the farm business concept and opportunity costing, adoption of new technologies, such as improved seeds, and financial management (keeping records, Money In-Money Out).
And, based on the testimonies we received, this appears to be already bearing fruit.
According to Bwanasela Robert Kalamizu, one of the FBS's lead farmers, they have made strides through the farmer school, including having enough food for the entire year and paying school fees for their children, which was previously difficult.
"Because of our successes over the years, many people have expressed an interest in joining us, and we always welcome them. In fact, we encourage as many farmers as possible to join us so that they, too, can benefit from the FBS,” said Kalamizu.
However, Kalamizu said that they require assistance, particularly in irrigation farming, where they continue to use watering cans, limiting crop yield.
He claimed that if they were given adequate support, they would fare far better than they do now.
Patricia Zakeyo, another member of the Kakuyu FBS, attests to their success as a result of the farmer school in the area.
"As a farmer, I used to have a lot of problems, but things have changed dramatically; for example, I can now harvest enough food for my family to last the entire year. I also manage to get my kids to school. I currently have a child in college, which I would not have been able to do if I had not been a member of this FBS. My life has significantly improved since then "Zakeyo stated.
However, Zakeyo has complained about the area's bad roads, which she claims impede their efforts to transport their produce to markets. She also bemoaned the country's high fertiliser prices, which she fears will undermine their efforts to grow.
We asked TRADE Knowledge Management and Communication Specialist Oscar Ulili for his thoughts on the opinions expressed by Kakuyu FBS members in Mchinji, and other cooperatives elsewhere.
With nearly 1,700 extension workers currently serving nearly 4 million farmers in Malawi, the farmer business school concept appears to be the most viable option.