At Kamtuma farmer field and business school —13 km north east of Kasungu District in Kantchembere village— 28 women and 13 men gather weekly for lessons in Agronomic Practices, Gender, Nutrition and Marketing. Previously, farmers cultivated using conventional method without much benefit. They used to sell their produce to local vendors buying at low prices and using uncertified weighing scales. As a result, farmers were not able to calculate their breakeven price, and suffered financially.
But Pathways changed everything. Now farmers have gained skills in both agriculture and marketing. Last season they managed to sell 7,556 kilograms of soya to a buyer at $ 0.46 USD per kilogram. They received almost 1.5 billion kwacha (USD $3,466.81). To break even, they needed $0.28 USD/kg, and the local vendor was buying at $0.37 with a questionable scale.
By selling collectively, bundling and weighing the soya themselves, they saved a new vendor time and he quickly made a good deal and hauled off the goods on his 30-tonne truck.
From the proceeds, producer group members bought farm inputs like certified seed and fertilizers, but also iron sheets, bicycles. Still more bought livestock- goats and pigs. Some kept the money to pay school fees for their children.
Farmers have now established a fund where each member contributes a monthly subscription of U$ 0.44. The fund is used to “facilitate market linkages,” like transporting produce to farther markets and buying inputs for the next season.
Ms Zelesi Ntchima (30), mother of two, says her soya sales amounted to 120,510.00 Malawian kwacha (U$284). She used the money to buy a sewing machine, ten bags of maize (50kgs each), 2 Goats and some household items. She is proud to announce that she will be making even more money sewing clothes in her community.
In the future, Ms Ntchima plans to buy more land to harvest more soya for increased profit.
Ms Enita Germany (30), married with 3 children, joined the group in 2012. Selling collectively, she earned 31,200 Malawi kwacha (U$73) which she used to buy a small solar panel and school uniforms for her children. She also took a loan of 29,000 MK (U$68) from her VSLA and opened up a small shop where she sells groceries.
Ms Enita Germany also plans to increase her area for cultivation next season, she believes what between her soya sales and the profits made from her shop, she will be able to buy iron sheets for her house.
– Contributed by: George Kamanga. (Field Advisor Pathways-Malawi).