Bvumbwe women tell a delicious vegetable story

Part of the drip irrigation scheme in Bvumbwe

21st November 2018:

Chifundo Mmane is a local farmer who has seen her income grow having ventured in horticulture business. She is among 20 women farmers singing songs of joy from Chinkwende Village in Traditional Authority Bvumbwe, Thyolo.

Through the smallholder irrigation initiative set up in the area by the Roseberry Farms, a private sector operator in the horticulture industry, their story has completely changed. Just a few years ago, these women could not contribute much towards the economic development of the country, let alone their households.

“Previously, this area was underdeveloped and most of the houses were grass thatched. Today, we can proudly say that every member has earned enough from the horticulture business to buy iron-sheets to roof their house,” says Mmane. “Every member of the group has greatly benefited.”

Women in this area, like many other areas of Malawi, are left behind with their main preoccupation being doing domestic chores while main strive to provide for their families.

Roseberry Farms’ manager, Ruth Kalima said through horticulture business, each member of the out-growers is now earning between MK100,000 ($137) and MK150,000 ($206) a month, compared to the MK30,000 ($41) they earned before per month.

“The rationale behind this business model is to develop women and disadvantaged people and to establish Malawi as a net exporter of horticulture products,” said Kalima. “There is still need for more investment to include more women and underprivileged people to further attain the goal of turning Malawi into a high value horticulture exporting nation.”

The project that is being implemented by Roseberry Farms involves establishing a dual supply chain which produces high value vegetables for the retail market directly aimed at import substitution.

While the anchor farm will produce various high-quality horticulture products using greenhouse technology, the smallholder supply chain will produce the remainder using a combination of open land and drip irrigation. The initiative is currently utilising retail outlets such as Peoples and Shoprite to sell its vegetables.

The company is able to procure on average 100 Metric Tons of vegetables per month from the out-grower farmers. Initially, before the company installed drip irrigation infrastructure on the land, farmers would only harvest 80 tons per annum.

UNDP Deputy Resident Representative Operations, Kasia Wawiernia is happy with the impact the project is having on the vegetable supply chain.

“Strengthening the out-grower program by providing the farmers with targeted technical backstopping, access to inputs and the creation of an irrigation scheme will enable the company (Roseberry Farms) to build partnerships with the contracted farmers. This is good news,” says Wawiernia. “UNDP and partners are “looking forward to seeing this model being successfully replicated across the district and the region.”

The project is supported through the Malawi Innovation Challenge Fund (MICF) – a US$21 million competitive, transparent mechanism that provides matching-grant finance for innovative projects proposed by the private sector active in Malawi’s agricultural, manufacturing and logistics sectors.

Supported by the United Nations Development Programme, UK Aid and KFW, the MICF is designed to be a quick, responsive mechanism that is not overly bureaucratic and one that understands the needs of the private sector.