Monday, September 16, 2013

Crop diversification can make a difference

By Jossam Chiwanga
It never rained but poured on Lucy Dyton, a 58 year old Machinga widow who, for several years had been having low yields for traditional crops, rice and Maize. Her life became hard for her since her husband died five years ago. During harvesting time she sold part of the little harvest she got at Ntaja Trading Centre to meet family basic needs. However,   her income was not enough to feed her four children and send them to school. With the change of weather pattern characterized by  the recurrent dry spells and erratic rains, it becomes difficult to maintain high yields for maize and rice. 
In 2012 she was invited by ADRA Malawi to attend the agri-business training, focussing on groundnuts production, marketing and crop enterprise diversification.  She tried to put what she leant into practice and planted 20kgs of groundnut seeds. During the 2013 marketing season Lucy managed to harvest 900 kgs. She sold 350 kgs and earned K27, 000 (about $79) through which she managed to pay school fees and used part of the money to buy household essentials. Lucy said in an interview that her life is now changing and she feels she has the capacity to achieve more.
Lucy with her 2 sons pose for a photograph in front of her house
‘’I have realised the importance of crop diversification.  Had it not been for groundnuts which I grew with technical knowledge and encouragement from ADRA Malawi , I would be  a beggar’’, she explained.
This year, Lucy plans to double the amount of seed in order for to earn more money during the 2014 marketing season. Currently Lucy has joined Chisangalalo Farmers’ Interest Group formed by ADRA Malawi   through the Action for Social Change Program. She said she got more information and encouragement from her peers on matters of agribusiness.
Machinga is one of the districts in Malawi where rural women self esteem is very low and dependency on men for survival is high. When ADRA facilitated formation of farmers’ interest groups, women are now looking at themselves differently, with a high sense of self reliance. 
ADRA Malawi is supporting 14 farmers’ interest groups in the district with membership of 280. The Action for Social Change Program is being supported by Denmark to bring about individual and society change in Machinga, Mulanje, Lilongwe and Mzimba.

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