30 October 2018:
The 15th National Agriculture Fair brought together participants from non-governmental organizations and the public and private sectors under the theme “Access to Finance, Value Addition and Markets – Key to Agri based Industrialization” at Chichiri Trade Fair Grounds Blantyre from 12 to 15 September 2018.
In line with this theme, three United Nations agencies, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), World Food Programme and UN Women teamed up to showcase the support they provide to small holder farmers to make farming a business. Furthermore, under the European Union (EU) banner, FAO took part in presenting farmer field schools as a platform for empowering rural smallholder farmers to increase productivity, value addition and market linkages.
Farmers from seven districts were able to showcase products in which they had added value as well as meet potential buyers or even advisers in agro processing. In addition to gaining agri-business knowledge, participation at the National Agriculture Fair expanded farmers’ access to markets and value addition technologies.
“We no longer throw anything away when it comes to tomatoes, everything has a purpose even the peel is dried and pounded into powder form and used during the period when tomatoes are scarce, this fair has helped us to find new markets” said Doris Nkunika from Champhira Cooperative in Mzimba.
The women thanked the UN agencies for bringing them to Blantyre. For some it was the first time that they participated in such a showcase.
“Through participation in farmer field schools we have increased our yields tremendously and now this fair has opened our group to potential markets and agro technologies, which can benefit us” members of Msambamfumu FFS.
Collectively the farmers expressed that turning their farming into a business has boosted their productivity, which has in turn boosted their individual incomes and made them more self-sufficient.
“Being in the cooperative has taught me many things. I learn a lot from others and sell at a profitable margin,” said Margret Feleza from Bowe Farmers’ Cooperative in Kasungu. “I am now able to comfortably send my children to school and even have extra money to spend at the home. Before school fees were a nightmare and I sometimes had to sell livestock to ensure the children were in school.” Margret is married with 5 children and 3 grandchildren.
She says because her farming is now a business she does not have to rely on her husband to support the family as he has two other wives.
For Esther Lubani, joining the Lifidzi Cooperative in Salima wasn’t an option but a must, after she saw that other farmers were growing their farming business.
“I saw that at the cooperative we learn a lot and we are able to market our products at a better price that relying on vendors,” she said.
She says because WFP has helped members of her cooperative with a direct link to markets, through the Home Grown School Meals programme – to Lifidzi and Naliomba Primary Schools, this has enabled them to provide for basic necessities for their families and has accorded them a “good life”.
Through the Home Grown School Meals programme WFP links farmers to schools where they supply locally grown food to ensure that students are provided with daily diversified meals.
Members of the cooperative especially women noted that they no longer have to live with the mentality that they need to be supported by men, they are able to buy anything for themselves and they feel empowered, they feel like they can achieve anything.
The UN agencies support greater participation of women farmers in the entire agriculture value chain. This starts from decision making at household and cooperative levels on production, value addition and market access.