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Finding gold in groundnuts

For Mwatitha Brainati, 39, a mother of four from Mkukhi Village, Traditional Authority Kalonga in Salima District, farming is an occupation she vows to continue pursuing for her children to get the best education.

“I do not farm for fun or just to find food for my family. I am a businessperson and farming has been one of the reasons I am able to send my children to school and get them necessary school items,” she says.

Brainati has been a cotton and maize farmer, but groundnuts’ farming has not been one of her passion.

“Ever since we started having unpredictable rains, I did not believe in groundnuts farming as my harvests were not enough to sell and for home use,” she adds.

Brainati decided to make her farming activities more beneficial by joining Chilimika Cooperative where, among others, the farmers sell their produce collectively.

The 60-member cooperative find markets even before harvest, a development that has led to transformation in their families and area.

“Of course we are within Chinguluwe settlement area where most of us have five hectares of land, but we believe in using this opportunity to make changes in our economic life,” says Brainati.

Upon seeing their dedication in farming activities, Alliance for a Green Revolution Africa (Agra), through Global Seeds Malawi, selected 10 farmers from the cooperative to be out-growers of a new groundnut seed.

Brainati is one of the four female farmers in the group.

Through contract farming with Global Seeds, she has learnt new methods of planting groundnuts and from the look of the crop, she is convinced of a bumper yield this season.

Cooperative chairperson Manase Chijalo says any step in their farming journey is under the guidance of extension services from their facilitators.

“Whatever we will produce here will be considered seed for other farmers in future, we therefore need to be careful with the pesticides we use; hence, the need for guidance from our extension officers,” he says.

On how they coordinate, Chijalo says the cooperative has rules and regulations that guide it and every farmer operates within the content.

“Being a chairperson, I check on my farmers and see how they are progressing and when they need help, I am the one who links up with extension officers for help,” he adds.

Chinguluwe Extension Planning Area (EPA) agriculture extension development coordinator Alice Kafunda says the involvement of farmers in seed multiplication will help them benefit more as marketing will not be an issue.

“The issue of readily available markets is what motivates farmers to do a great job in their farms. It is my hope that these farmers will use the opportunity of having a readily available market to prove to the buyers that they can do it,” she says.

Global Seeds Malawi sales and marketing officer Mike Chibwe says the company is ready and prepared to buy the CG 11 multiplied groundnut seed from the farmers.

The company is expecting to buy 20 metric tonnes from the 10 farmers.

Says Chibwe: “We have never had issues with our contract farmers because they normally produce the expected quantity and this helps us to avoid having misunderstandings.”

Agra Malawi country director Sophie Chitedze says it is pleasing that the technologies being implemented through various partners like Global Seeds are really trickling down to the household level of the farmers.

She says: “We have seen a great impact in yields and also the healthy crops in the fields. When we see smallholder farmers being seed breeders it is encouraging that they will be economically empowered.

Chitedze adds that despite having challenges in extension services, farmers have demonstrated to work hard on their own and use the opportunities they have in their farming activities.

“We would like to employ other ways of providing extension services like going digital, for example, to make up for the inadequate extension officers in the country,” she adds.

The past 10 years have seen the production of groundnuts increasing in the country as most farmers are transitioning from tobacco to other cash crops.

One reason for the increase is also attributed to the availability of quality seed, readily available markets and programmes that are encouraging crop diversification and nutrition.

Aside challenges such as lack of national technical response to aflatoxins and unregulated informal markets, farmers of the crop still have hope that their lives will continue transforming with the sales made from groundnuts.

According to Food and Agriculture Organisation, groundnuts have a significant economic value to Malawi as about 40 percent of total production is marketed.

 

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