By Chimwemwe Mphande – Mana.
Small scale Farmers in Machinga on Wednesday expressed their appreciation to Adventist Relief Agency (ADRA) for the innovative marketing skills the faith based organization has imparted them through Farmers Market School (FMS).
Chairperson for Mpapa Farmers’ Cooperative, Haji Mandowa said many small scale farmers in Traditional Authority (T/A) Kawinga have become active prayers in various agricultural value chain.
“We have learnt how to negotiate with customers and all the processes involved in the value chain. This has helped us sell our produce at a better price than before,” he said.
The chairperson explained that Mpapa Farmers Group was selling its produce using contract farming, citing a contract the grouping has with Nandolo Farmers Association as an example.
“Our agreement is that we should sell all our pigeon peas to Nandolo Association and we have already agreed on the price. We used the negotiation skills gained from the training on farmer market school,” he added.
He also disclosed Mpapa cooperative’s initiative to solicit funds from Agriculture Commercialization (AGRICOM) project has helped them a lot.
He said the group wants to be a fully fledged commercial entity by, among others, owning a maize mill and a warehouse.
“At the moment members are contributing K5,000 for land acquisition. We believe the warehouse and maize mill will increase our financial base,” he said.
Prisca Nayisoni, Vice Chairperson of the cooperative said as individual farmers each one has developed.
“Some members have bought goats , others are running groceries shops, as for me I have moved from a glass thatched house to an iron sheet roofed house within one year all because of applying the concepts learnt from FMS,” said Nayisoni.
Machinga District Council Agribusiness Officer, Bright Mbirika described FMS as a key that can overturn hand-to-mouth farming into a commercial farming.
“FMS opened up the marketing skills for the farmer, but farmers have to work in groups in order to be easily accessed by extension workers for such services,” said Mbirika.
Machinga District Coordinator for ADRA, Belinda Chimombo said FMS is one of the pillars of Action for Social Change (ASC) program which her organization has been implementing in Machinga District.
She said the program is mainly aimed at building the capacity of Community Based Groups (CBGs) so that they should be able to identify and address development issues through advocacy, partnerships and networking.
“One of our objectives was that communities should have access to markets, sell their products and purchase necessary goods for their livelihoods,” said Chimombo.
She added that the program is slowly changing farmers’ negative perception towards farming saying FMS gives them an opportunity to actively participate in the value chain process.
“The program has really transformed farmers. They have undergone a process from being almost totally market illiterate to being better informed farmers about how the markets for their crops function,” he said.
ADRA started working with Mpapa farmers since 2012 where it helped them move from being a farmers club to a registered cooperative in 2019.