African Institute of Corporate Citizenship (AICC) and Dowa District Council chairperson have urged smallholder farmers in Malawi to seriously consider turning to horticulture as the market for the country’s green gold, tobacco, continues to falter.The council chairperson, Councilor Martin Luka Phiri, stated that horticulture is fast becoming lucrative business and can potentially replace faltering tobacco if government and its development partners can put meaningful investment in the sector. Phiri was speaking at Mponela, Dowa district during AICC’s horticulture fair. The fair is one of the activities under the Commercial Agribusiness for Sustainable Horticulture (CASH) Project which AICC is implementing in Dowa district in partnership with Norwegian Church Aid (NCA).
Under the project, a group of small scale horticulture farmers is taking part in piloting drip irrigation technology as a measure to mitigate poverty and build resilience to climate change while at the same time boosting production and productivity. One of the major goals of the project is to boost production and productivity to a level where some of the profits can be re-invested for further growth. In his remarks, Phiri stated that it is clear that the future of tobacco is hazy; hence the need for smallholder farmers to embrace other crops and use modern farming technologies to maximize yield.
“Tobacco market and its prices have become a big insult to the smallholder farmers in the country. The farmers invested huge sums of money to produce the leaf only to come back from the market with tears rolling their cheeks because their produce did not fetch the much desired earning for them,” he said. “As tobacco market continues to fail us, let us turn to other fast-maturing crops such as vegetables and fruits to not only beat the effects of climate change, but also address food insecurity and low income earnings from agriculture. I therefore wish to urge farmers to embrace horticulture as a measure to fight poverty at household level,” added Phiri. However, the council chairperson pleaded with AICC and NCA to consider up scaling the initiative to other parts of Dowa and the country at large for other farmers to benefit from this initiative.
Forty three year old Mary Chadzala, one of the project beneficiaries, said she is realizing huge benefits from the sale of horticultural products. “I am now able to pay school fees for my five children, some of whom are in secondary schools with proceeds from the sale of vegetables. I am very grateful to AICC and NCA for introducing the project in Mndolera Extension Planning Area, where I belong to,” she reiterated. CASH project manager, Emmanuel Mponya said that the project is complementing the Young Innovative Farmer Initiative and the Sustainable Lead Farmer Project which AICC is equally implementing in Dowa. Mponya explained that the main objective of the project is to increase profitability for smallholder farming through drip irrigation and to increase production and productivity of horticultural produce. He added that the development logic behind this action is that increased access to profitable input and output horticulture markets to stimulate market-oriented horticultural production. “AICC is pleased to note that the project is already bearing fruits with the 910 farmers we are currently working with. We have plans to expand to reach out to more farmers with this project so that more farmers can escape the yoke of poverty,” concluded Mponya.