Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Post titleGroundnuts, soybeans can replace tobacco –LL farmers

By Baxter Chilombo -Food Security Facilitator, Lilongwe

ADRA Malawi conducted series of meetings in Traditional Authority Tsabango in Lilongwe to find lasting solutions to challenges farmers face in the wake of low tobacco prices during the previous marketing seasons.

Tobacco is the main cash crop in the area and lower sales have left many farmers helpless, a situation that called for diversity and reduced dependency on the crop as it is now facing anti-smoking campaign in Malawi and globally. As a consequence, the future of tobacco is uncertain and farmers needed a possible replacement. 

Farmers planning activities during one of the meetings.

A tobacco farmer, Mr Phiri who has depended on the crop for over 15 years could not believe the sudden slump on the sales in the previous marketing seasons and expressed fear of increased poverty if farmers do not diversify.

ADRA Malawi through the Action for Social Change program mobilised 360 farming households to discuss alternative crops to replace tobacco.  During the discussions several crops were analysed looking into consideration all possibilities in terms of production and marketing and famers settled on groundnuts and soybeans as possible replacements.

Farmers said the climate is conducive for soybeans and groundnuts and that they have high market value.

Women participation in the discussion was encouraging
This growing season many farmers have grown these crops and ADRA Malawi is linking farmers to agri-business companies and organisations for market accessibilities.

ADRA Malawi has already facilitated formation of 18 market oriented interest groups in the area, each with 20 members to organize small scale farmers and lobby for good prices and conduct market research among other objectives.

ADRA Malawi is also building the capacity of the interest groups in development and agribusiness. The groups are also mentored and encouraged to take farming as a business.
“For decades, we have been growing for sale, marketing strategies have not been given any close attention and we ended up selling our produce at low prices. Its high time we started  thinking of producing for business and select crops that we know better have potential for market and above all we grow as a group’, advised Mr Phiri,  a member of Njobvu Interest Group.
 One of the group members concurred with Mr. Phiri, saying that producing for business can help farmers realise their dreams.
“One thing that I have noted is that venturing into agri-based business cannot be done single handed. It needs all of us to work together because there is no way we can satisfy a market with produce from a few farmers’, noted Mr. Thutambala, a member of  Chiyingira Interest Group.   
Farmer representatives from different interest groups meet on monthly rotational basis to discuss issues of their concerns. In December,  farmer representatives went to a Seed Company (Seed Co) to lobby for inputs and they succeeded securing them.

The Action for Social Change Program is being funded by Denmark.

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