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Farming remains pillar for poverty alleviation

Written by  Tikondane Vega
Femiya Kalumikiza Femiya Kalumikiza


Thyolo, July 12, 2020: To others, doing vegetable farming might sound very shallow, a waste of time and not profitable compared to other farming ventures. 
To Patson Chalamanda in his 40s, vegetable farming is more than other farming any person would think.

“It is not the type of farming that you do that matters most, it is the way you  do it and this is what I have leant for the past two years of vegetable farming,” he said, adding that some people have a negative attitude towards farming because they don’t do the farming according to its recommended guidelines.

Chalamanda comes from Mchenga Village, Traditional Authority (TA) Nsamala in Balaka and has previously been doing the same farming and things did not work for him.

For several times, he failed to realize good profit because financial hiccups prevented him from buying fertilizer and other inputs required in vegetable farming.

Government embarked on Financial Access for Rural Markets, Smallholders and Enterprise (Farmse) programme to graduate famers from ultra-poverty to prosperity.

This is a seven year programme being implemented by Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development from 2018 to 2025 with a goal to reduce poverty, improve livelihoods and enhance the resilience of rural households on a sustainable basis.

Under the programme, the government has engaged several implementing partners and one of them is OXFAM which is implementing the programme in Balaka under the banner ‘Gender Responsive Ultra Poor Graduation’ project where Chalamanda is one of the beneficiaries under TA Nsamala.

Oxfam is working with Eagles Relief in Balaka as implementing partner targeting 1,250 beneficiary households from TAs Phalula, Nsamala, Kalembo and Amidu.

It is through this programme that Chalamanda learned manure making techniques that produced local brand dubbed ‘Mbeya manure’.

He learnt the Mbeya manure through Climate Smart Agriculture which has now started bearing fruits as bumper yield currently recorded in his vegetable gardens is great testimony towards his graduation from poverty to agricultural prosperity.

After being introduced to Mbeya manure, Chalamanda said his vegetable production has greatly improved such that he has managed to construct a decent house and bought a motorcycle at K 500,000 thus after selling cabbage heads within a year of practicing recommended vegetable cultivation backed by new manure application.

"Besides being simple and cheap, Mbeya manure is much powerful more than that we can buy from the shop. I was buying four bags of fertilizer to use on one acre and l failed to harvest to make profits,” he confessed.

Chalamanda testifies that he only use two bags of Mbeya manure which is affordable and has resulted into bumper harvest out of cabbage cultivation.

He now earns the respect of a successful farmer deserves at his home village and surrounding areas.

The respect did not come for nothing and it came because of his recent success in vegetable farming due to his willingness to share his knowledge and skills to other farmers like Chrissy Nansongo.

Nansongo applies knowledge and skills she learnt from Chalamanda and testifies that with Mbeya manure it was possible to harvest three times a year without complaining about effects of climate change.

The manure which is considered fertilizer has proved to be ideal to impact of climate change; Nansongo is now able to see the path to prosperity testified while attributing to her anticipated success to Chalamanda’s mentorship.

She said that, “I am a vegetable farmer and I mainly grow cabbage just like Chalamanda, I do the farming on a half-hectare piece of land where things could not work had it not been for Mbeya manure,”

Mbeya manure works wonders to Nansongo who said her yield has greatly improved such that it is possible to become a million plus richer soon after adopting the technique and consistent application of the manure.

“l am now expecting to harvest over 3,000 cabbage heads and will sell them at K 150.00 each at wholesale price, meaning lm very likely pocket K500, 000.There is a possibility that I can plant three times a year and this gives me high chances of getting K 1, 500.000 out of sales,” Nansongo narrated while attributing her prospects to the affordable manure.

Oxfam Livelihoods Resilience Programme Manager, Steve Kuliyazi said there are several interventions being promoted to achieve overall goal of enhancing resilience and one of them is Climate Smart Agriculture that includes promotion of manure making and utilization.

"Mbeya manure is easy and cheap to make. Just taking 20 kilogrammes of maize residuals, 20 kilogrammes of animals stools like those of chicken or pig, 10 kilogrammes of chemical fertilizer and 10 kilogrammes of ash and mix it with water.

"What it means is that farmers spent K 7,500 to come up with 50 kilogrammes of Mbeya fertilizer meaning they save almost K 18,000 because one 50 kilogrammes of fertilizer now costs approximately K25,000," Kuliyazi said while commending Farmse for considering Oxfam as its partner.

In Mulanje, the same Farmse programme is being implemented by Community Savings and Investment Promotion (COMSIP) Cooperative Union through its project called Building Sustainable Livelihoods for Ultra poor (BSLUP) under component 1 of Farmse programme.

COMSIPs BSLUP Manager for Mulanje and Phalombe, Fred Kazombo explained that overall objective of BSLUP is to graduate ultra-poor households into sustainable and resilient households by 2025 by among others ensuring that such people have improved food security. Fred

A 46 year old widow, Femiya Kulumiza is one of the farmers in Mulanje who has learnt Action Climate Smart Agriculture under BSLUP and this year has harvested 25 bags of rice.

“It is an improvement because previously it was not possible to get such bags of rice, Climate Smart Agriculture has really helped me because I’ve constructed a house, bought two bicycles and my plans are to buy a motorcycle this year,” she said.

Farmse programme engaged Banks such as FDH and other financial institutions to provide banking services in rural areas.

Through the Farmse programme, FDH Bank was given a mandate in Mulanje and other districts to ensure that people in rural areas are accessing banking services.

This has resulted into the introduction of Pakhomo Agent Initiative to ensure that people in hard to reach areas access the banking services.

“This is the initiative where we identify people in some places within the district to serve people on our behalf by offering services such as opening of accounts, cash deposits and withdrawals among other services,” FDH Bank Digital Sales Manager, Innocent Manda said, added that the services provided are not limited to those in rural areas as everybody can access the services.

He said that the outreach has enabled Farmse programme to increase the bank’s customer base because the bank has brought in many Bank Pakhomo Agents countywide to reach the underserved.

The Sales Manager pointed out that, “Under Farmse Programme the bank has opened 10 Pakhomo Agent Banks in Mulanje plus other 20 which the bank already opened in the district making the total of 30,”.

He disclosed that FDH was planning to open additional 66 Bank Pakhomo Agents in the district under Farmse programme as it has proved to have huge impact on the banking industry.

Manda said the FDH would continue with the model even after the Farmse programme phases out adding that the model has reached out and served many customers through 1,500 Agents countrywide.

Bank Pakhomo Agent in Mulanje, Ousmane Fletcher said everyday he serves over 100 customers and when it is month-end he serves more than this adding that people from other districts such as Phalombe come to him to access banking services.

He noted that introduction of Bank Pakhomo Agents has revealed that people in rural areas equally need banking services like those in the urban areas.

"I’ve been doing the mobile banking services all along but my involvement with FDH Bank has boosted my business and doing banking on behalf of this bank was a rare opportunity,” Fletcher admitted.

Knowledge Management and Communications Officer for Farmse programme, Golie Nyirenda said it was the wish of programme to graduate ultra- poor households into sustainable and resilient households by ensuring that the households have improved food security and are economic resilient apart from  improving their nutrition  status and house structures.

She said they are satisfied with how partners are implementing the Farmse programme adding government would continue to support implementers with an aim to empower rural masses so that they could graduate from the poverty through several initiatives by partners like Oxfam and Comsip. 

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