ASWAp-SPII Rolls Out the Agriculture Market Information System

The Agriculture Sector Wide Approach-Support Project II (ASWAP-SPII) has rolled out the Agriculture Market Information System (AMIS) aimed at achieving regulated and efficient market systems in Malawi.

The project has bought digital gadgets for agricultural officers to use for collecting data on market prices for various farm commodities.

One of the officers, Eunice Sulamoyo Kambalame from Zomba Agriculture Office has commended the initiative.

Previously, we collected market information on a piece of paper. It was difficult to transfer information to the Ministry, especially in rainy season because papers could get soaked – she explains.

In addition to tablets bought for extension workers for collecting data, ASWAp-SPII has bought a desktop computer placed at Zomba District Office to be used as a backup gadget. Furthermore, each Agriculture Extension Development Coordinator (AEDC) has received a laptop computer.

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ASWAp-SPII Geared to Restore Banana Industry in Malawi

In a bid to restore the banana industry, ASWAp-SP II through the Department of Agriculture Research Services (DARS) has intensified banana macro-propagation and community orchards. According to Harold Katondo, Horticulturalist at Bvumbwe Research Station, DARS has produced over 40,000 suckers since ASWAp-SP II started, thus from 2018/2019 growing season.

Among others, commercial farmers like Ovillella Mkhupela of Chilumba farm collaborates with the Zomba District Agriculture Office and has since planted 1500 William banana variety on his one-hectare piece of land.  

I decided to venture into banana production because I know that farming is business, and I believe that there is a lot of money in the banana industry – says Mkhupela.

Mkhupela – I believe there is a lot of money in the banana industry

Smallholder farmers are also multiplying their clean banana planting materials in their communities. Peter Mose from Mchinji district is among such farmers.

“I was given 100 suckers, but now I have more than 160 banana tree. I will keep multiplying because I have seen the benefits in banana production,” says Mose.

To date, a total of more than 600 hectares have been put under banana production by 11,213 farmers with 53.8% women in the implementation districts.

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Improvement of rural unpaved roads twinkles hope to farmers in Ntchisi

In Malawi, road transport plays an important role not only in facilitating the mobility of agricultural produce to markets but also enhancing interaction among farmers from different areas, as well as opening up new areas to economic focus.

However, lack of access to good roads has been one of the major challenges that have affected farming business for most smallholder farmers in the country.

As such, the Agricultural Sector Wide Approach Support Project II (ASWAp-SP II) has been supporting road improvement interventions in twelve project’s implementation districts in the country.

Ntchisi is one of the districts in the country where ASWAp-SP II is rehabilitating and upgrading some ten unpaved roads with the longest road being ten kilometers. Additionally, the Ng’ombe-Nyalavu road which is about six kilometers will be tarmacked.

Isaac Mdindo is Director of Public Works in the district and he has hailed ASWAp-SP II for the timely intervention which he said will change the face of Ntchisi in as far as improved road network is concerned. He said the good roads will not only facilitate the smoother movement of farm produce to markets, but will also ensure timely delivery of farm inputs to farmers which will eventually improve agricultural productivity.

“Poor road conditions have always affected our farmers in accessing markets for their farm produce as most of these roads are impassable during rainy season. Now that this project is improving the roads, surely more farmers will join the farming business”, Mdindo explained.

He added that the improved roads will also help to improve service delivery in education, health and other crucial sectors of the economy.

Chinipha Vula is a farmer from Nzoma Village, Traditional Authority (T/A) Kalumo in Ntchisi district. He is the Chairperson for Chikhwakhwa-Mkwambisi seven kilometer road rehabilitation program.

Vula said Chikhwakhwa-Mkwambisi road which is at an advanced stage, once completed, will not only benefit farmers and people within the vicinity but Malawi as a whole as agricultural produce from all over places will easily reach designated markets within and outside the district.

“We produce a lot of Irish potatoes here, but we usually make huge losses as our produce fail to reach markets due to poor roads. As such most of the time, we sell them at giveaway prices that do not compensate our capital. I am proud to mention that the road will make farmers, cooperatives and model villages more visible”. Vula said.

ASWAp-SP II also emphasizes on providing disposable income through jobs to the farmers in the surrounding local communities.

Doreen Nakalani from Mkwai village, T/A Kalumo is one of the women who have taken part in the rehabilitation works.

She said income from the work has enabled her to afford farm inputs and some basic needs such as food and groceries for her family.

Her budgeting was also shared by Watson Tawina who was among farmers rehabilitating Chikwakwa-Mkwambisi road.

“I bought maize seed and fertilizers which I applied to my field. I hope to harvest bumper yield this year. The road project has given me income that I have used to support my farming activities”, said Watson Tawina.

ASWAp-SP II seeks to develop a resilient and diversified agriculture sector through improved productivity, improved market access infrastructure, adoption of technologies, restoration of soil fertility, resilience and diversified agricultural systems among others.

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ASWAp-SP II scores high in Gender Mainstreaming

Farmers in the country, mostly in the twelve districts where the Agriculture Sector Wide Approach Support Project (ASWAp-SPII) is being implemented, have parted ways with the old tendency of making decisions or taking actions in agriculture production basing on one’s gender; credit to the project for intervening with gender mainstreaming initiatives.

In the promotion of gender equity and equality among farming households, ASWAp-SP II has managed to ensure that women and men have equal access to and control over resources, benefits and decision-making at all stages of agricultural production.

Georgina Mikael of Nkhwazi Model village in the area of Traditional Authority Kapondo in Mchinji district says ASWAp-SP II has taught her not to be on the receiving end, but ensure that with her husband they do all farming activities together as a couple.

“ASWAp-SP II has taught us that when crossing a river, we should not be carried at the back, but instead we hold each other’s hand so that we see together where to step our feet on, thereby enabling us to cross the river on our own. That is why my husband and I work and make decisions together,” she explains.

“Working together as a couple helps to have an equal workload and that no one overworks than the partner. This is very important in a family. I am also happy that my husband understands better the gender concept. He is now able to do with me several household chores such as cooking, cleaning dishes and cleaning the house,” she added.

Her husband Mathew Mikael says he is delighted with ASWAp-SP II’s lessons on gender equality in a farming household. He added that working together has helped his family to increase their income due to combined efforts that have resulted in increased productivity. The two decide together on the size of land to cultivate, the varieties to grow and market decisions.

Previously in most rural farming households here in Malawi women used to do relatively more work and worked more hours than men.

For instance, a couple could go and work on equal portions in the crop field but thereafter, as the husband is resting, the woman had to continue with collecting fuel, fetching water, preparing food, caring for the children and maintaining the home.

Mathew concedes such a discriminatory distribution of household roles based on gender which he attributes to societal misconceptions.

“In the past, I used to think that domestic chores such as cooking, collecting firewood, taking care of children and cleaning the house belonged to women. But ASWAp-SP II has helped to remove such a perception. Now my wife and I work together in all these activities,” he said.

The Mikael family is just one of the many families from Nkhwazi model village in Mchinji whose agricultural productivity has gone up by working together as couples. The families work together in both rain-fed season and irrigation farming activities. They have equitable access to farming resources. The couples also make marketing decisions together.

In the strengthening and implementation of innovative agricultural extension and advisory services, ASWAp-SP II supports gender mainstreaming using approaches and tools that encourage improved gender relations at the household level such as the Household approach.

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ASWAp-SP II introduces giant Cavendish (Mulanje) banana variety to Chitipa through lead farmers

Apart from ensuring food sufficiency and promoting food diversification for nutrition at household level, ASWAp-SP II also seeks to promote commercial production and agro-processing for market development among smallholder farmers in the country.

As one way towards achieving this goal, the project is promoting production of disease-free banana varieties through treatment and multiplication of healthy banana suckers.

Timothy Sichilindi, a lead farmer from Mwenemalawa village, Traditional Authority Wenya, Chisenga, Chitipa district is among farmers in the country who are multiplying Giant Cavendish (Mulanje) banana variety.

The 61-year-old Sichilindi started farming business in 2015. Ever since, he has been growing different crops (under rain-fed and irrigation) and keeps a wide range of poultry and livestock. But despite his effort, the dedicated lead farmer has not been able to realize expected maximum profits from his farming business due to market constraints.

However, Sichilindi never gave up on farming. He relentlessly continued pursuing his dream of becoming a successful farmer one day.

“I do not believe in resting, as resting means lasting, I work hard and I am a king”, he said.

What is more adorable about his story is that Sichilindi does the farming business together with his wife and children.

“We do farming business together as a family. We plan, work and budget together,” Loyna Kanyika, Sichilindi’s wife explained.

The life of Sichilindi in agriculture started changing in 2018, when he got the opportunity to be among five farmers from Chitipa district who attended a learning tour in Thyolo and Mulanje districts under ASWAp-SP II. According to him, the tour was meant to help farmers from other districts appreciate efforts of ASWAp-SP II intervention in banana production and Banana Bunchy Top Virus disease (BBTV).

Inspired by lessons and discoveries about the crop in the toured districts, Sichilindi and family decided to venture into banana production. Today they are successful banana farmers who have managed to pioneer production of Giant Cavendish (Mulanje) banana variety in Chitipa.

ASWAp-SP II provided Sichilindi with a humid chamber to be multiplying banana suckers, 100 banana suckers which were planted on his 0.2 acres’ land, 50 banana suckers which were planted in the humid chamber for multiplication and polythene tubes.

Most importantly on this investment, ASWAp-SP II imparted the lead farmer with technical knowledge and skills on banana production. Fast-forward the farmer has already started enjoying the benefits.

“The 50 banana suckers were treated and planted in the chamber (in March 2019) and currently there are more than 210 banana suckers ready for sale and I hope to have more suckers this season,” said visibly proud Sichilindi.

Currently, he is the only farmer multiplying the variety in his area. He is even set to make huge profits due to high demand for the variety in the district. In fact, he is selling them at MK2,500.00 per sucker as a start.

The excited Sichilidi poured more praise on ASWAp-SP II for opening his opportunities to successful farming. He believes the gesture will improve food sufficiency and security in Chitipa as more farmers will also benefit from him through access to the variety but also technical knowledge that he will be providing to the interested farmers.

This coming season, Sichilindi plans to plant 2,220 suckers of Mulanje banana variety on his 1-hectare land.

The lead farmer believes that, undoubtedly, sooner from now Chitipa will be home for the variety, thanks to ASWAp-SP II.

Banana is widely grown in Malawi as a cash crop as well as for local consumption. Giant Cavendish (Mulanje) is one of the recommended banana varieties in the country that have high yielding potential and fetches good prices on the market.

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