At Mnduka Farmer Field and Business School (FFBS) 28 women and 13 men gather weekly to learn about modern agronomic practices, gender, nutrition, and marketing. Before, farmers cultivated using less effecitve, traditional methods. They also used to sell produce to local vendors who bought at lower prices and using non-standardized weighing scales, resulting in losses for the farmers.
Thanks to Pathways, these former challenges are now a thing of the past. Farmers are now equipped with knowledge and skills in both modern agricultural practices and marketing skills. During the 2015 marketing season farmers managed to sell 7,556 kilograms of soya to a formal buyer at a farm gate collection point. The buyer bought at paid 0.46 USD per kilo allowing the farmers to earn nearly 3,467 USD. Before, the best price farmers could hope to get was only 0.37 USD per kilogram. Because of collective marketing techniques, the buyer was able to purchase the soya at just one collection point and, because the buyer saved time, fuel, and other costs, he was willing to pay better prices for the soya.
With the extra proceeds they received from their soya, the farmers have been able to buy iron sheets to improve their homes, bicycles, farm inputs like certified seeds and fertilizers, and livestock like goats and pigs. Still others used their profits to pay the school fees for their children. Life has truly changed for these farmers.
The farmers have now established an FFBS financing fund to help with future plans. Each producer group member contributes an agreed upon monthly subscription of 0.44 USD. Wit this money, group members can facilitate market linkages, transportation of produce to far off markets, and purchasing inputs for the coming agricultural season.
A 30 year-old woman with two children, Zelesi Ntchima, testified to the benefits she has seen. Her soya sales amounted to approximately 284 USD. Zelesi used the money to purchase a sewing machine, ten 50 kilogram bags of maize, two goats, and some household utensils. Zelesi proudly said that she will now be able to make money on a daily basis by selling the clothing she makes on her new machine in the community. Zelesi now hopes to increase the size of her soya plot so that she can earn even more during the harvest season.
Another woman, Enita Germany, also testified to the benefits of her participation in Pathways activities. Enita is married with three children and joined the FFBS in 2012. As one of the members who participated in the collective sales, she earned 73 USD. With this money, she was able to buy a small solar panel and school uniforms for her children. In addition she was able to take a loan of 68 USD from the local Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) and used this loan to open a small grocery shop. Enita is also planning to increase the size of her soya plot. With the combination of increased soya sales and the profits from her shop, Enita plans to buy iron sheets to improve the quality of her home.
As the stories of these two women demonstrate, Pathways’ innovative work in agroeconomic training and collective marketing have made a significant impact in the Mnduka community in Malawi.
Contibuted by: George Kamanga. (Field Advisor Pathways-Malawi).