The FFBS model is one of the key interventions and change levers in the ‘Pathways to Secure and Resilient Livelihoods’ program in Malawi. Nyanthundu FFBS which comprises five producer groups is one of the active schools. The school strives to improve member farmers’ food security by increasing productivity of Soya beans and Groundnuts as well as increasing incomes from selling these crops. The discussions the visiting group had with Nyanthundu FFBS and the demonstrations (presentations and role play) by FFBS members revolved around marketing Soya beans in groups and gender issues around marketing.
Realizing that collective selling fetches better returns because it involves less transaction costs and the producer groups can engage firmly with buyers and negotiate for better prices compared to individual marketing was really the incentive for farmers to join the producer groups. One farmer who looked very excited about the group marketing said that they once sold 1 kilogram of Soya beans for 195MK, 35MK higher than the break-even price for that particular sale or produce. The farmers had a good grasp of what their buyers wanted in terms of volumes and quality. The fact that the FFBS keeps funds which would serve as safety nets for FFBS members when market prices are not rewarding or demand is less was really impressing. This fund is a vital resource for small holder farmers, who are usually vulnerable to price shifts and unpredictable market situations, to cushion them from distress sales.
What was also equally remarkable is the fact that the producer groups were able to negotiate for a better price year after year and learned from pitfalls they experienced during the previous sales. For instance, they learnt to demand sacks which are of equal quality to those they are selling with their produce from buyers after they have received low quality sacks which easily got torn apart in one of the auction days.
Despite high ambitions of even looking forward to selling their produce to neighboring countries and beyond, these producer groups face tough challenges which they struggle to cope with or find solutions for. Inconsistency from buyers to come and purchase according to how they agreed and planned as well as price fluctuations are some of the issues and challenges that Nyanthundu FFBS faces.
On the other hand, it came up during the discussions that the group is seen as a women’s group by the community whereby men’s involvement is very minimal notwithstanding all the successes and future prospects of the producer groups and FFBS. Whilst couples have begun to share household chores and decisions, decisions around the management and spending of incomes are still skewed towards men. This as well as genuine and robust involvement of men in these forums such as the FFBS may be some the areas where the Pathways Program could focus on in the future.
– Contributed by Abdirahim Salah Gure – CARE Somalia; Photo by Billy Molosoni