Friday, November 26, 2010

District commissioner hails ADRA study on sunflower

By Sangwani Mwafulirwa

The District Commissioner for Mulanje, Mr Jack Ngulube has commended ADRA Malawi for a successful study of the value chain of sunflowers. He said the results will help to put in place proper mechanisms to help famers get more income for their work.

Speaking during a value chain study dissemination workshop, held in the district on November 12, 2010, the district commissioner said sunflowers were one of the crops identified in the district development plan which needed to be promoted.

“You have presented a very realistic picture to us. Our programming will be realistic because we will have a real picture of the potential benefits of adding value to sunflowers. Let me thank you for the study as it will contribute to the development of our district,” he said.

The district commissioner said value chain adding was the only way that could improve income for farmers, most of whom are growing on a small holder scale.

“We are glad that the study was done in Mulanje. The District development plan also looked at ways to improve income for farmers, and sunflower is one of the crops to be promoted,” he explained.

He said the challenge was how to assist farmers to change their mindset of using traditional methods of farming to adopt new ones that can help them adopt new techniques that will help produce optimal yields even without increasing the acreage.

The meeting was attended by various stakeholders in the sunflower industry in Mulanje including: the ministry of agriculture, Bvumbwe Research Station, Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (ADMARC), farmer associations, agro-dealers, farmers and other NGOs.

Also in attendance were journalists from the national public broadcaster, Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (both television and radio), the biggest private national radio station, Zodiak Broadcasting Station, Blantyre Newspapers and Nation Publications.

In her remarks during opening of the workshop, Project Manager for Resilience and Capacity Building for HIV/Aids Households (RECAB), Mrs Thoko Mwapasa said ADRA Malawi did a rapid analysis of the cash crops in the district that they wanted to develop.

“We settled for sunflower because of the opportunity it offers as a cash crop of generating employment and improving the income of farmers,” she said.

She also added that the stakeholders workshop was organized not only to disseminate the results of the study but to also create a platform where all players in the value chain come together to discuss and map out a way forward in addressing the key issues in the value chain in order to develop the industry. She urged participants to look at this as an opportunity to work closer together and form innovative partnerships that will develop the subsector and attract investors into Mulanje district as well as into the sunflower production industry as a whole of the economic growth and development of the country.

Presenting the findings, lead consultant, Tonderai Manoto said sunflower was of strategic importance as it was taking advantage of existing labour and other value-adding initiatives by National Association of Smallholder Farmers (NASFAM) and One Village One Product (OVOP).
According to him there was potential to increase average harvest from the current 500kg per hectare to 2500kg if farmers were encouraged to use dressed seed which is already available from Chitedze and Bvumbwe Research Stations unlike recycling.

“We can increase harvest without increasing acreage by using treated seeds but the problem is that farmers think seeds from the shop are expensive unlike recycled seeds which they just pick anywhere for free.

“Farmers are foregoing a lot of income by recycling seeds. We can achieve high yields by reworking the husbandry practices for the smallholder farmers,” he said.

Manoto also said there was an opportunity to realise more income for farmers by adding value to the sunflower whereby they would extract cooking oil by themselves and then use the residue to make seed cakes which can also be sold.

“There is a big urban market for cooking oil which we cannot satisfy. There are so many imported brands in the shops with very high prices. If farmers get organized they can extract their own cooking oil from sunflowers and sell them easily because a market already exists,” he explained.

In his contribution during plenary, Crops Officer for Mulanje District under the Ministry of Agriculture, Wilfred Ugeni said the cost of the production of sunflowers was lower than other cash crops but what was lacking was that policy makers have not given it much attention as with other cash crops like tobacco and cotton.

He said extension workers have a responsibility to educate the farmers about the potential income that could be realised from sunflowers, to support them in getting organized and to help them identify good markets for their harvest.

ADRA Malawi is implementing the RECAB project in partnership with ADRA Denmark with financial support from DANIDA. The aim of the project is to improve resilience ad capacity among vulnerable and poor household affected by HIV/AIDS through improved food availability and income, improved health and increased knowledge and learning capacity for communities to take charge of community development.

Full report of the study can be provided upon request by writing to

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