Flanders visit motivates farmers to upscale agricultural production

Flanders President tours an FAO nutrition stand. Photo Credit: FAO.

FAO-Flanders-Malawi partnership on emergency response to long-term programming and market access

29 August 2017, Kasungu, Malawi – On a visit to a model farmer supported by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Minister-President of the Government of Flanders Honourable Geert Bourgeois underscored the need to support farmers with appropriate agricultural extension service delivery systems for them to graduate from subsistence to commercialisation.

The Minister-President also interacted with other farmers to appreciate programme activities implemented under the “Marketing Capacity Building Project for Smallholder Farmers in Kasungu and Mzimba Districts,” with financial support from the Government of Flanders.

His visit on 19 August 2017 to Kasungu, Central Region of Malawi, bolstered farmers’ resolve to upscale their agricultural production for sustained household food, nutrition and income security to contain pervasive rural poverty that has forced most rural farmers migrate into other locations in search for better economic opportunities.

FAO, Flanders and Malawi 10-year partnership

Flanders President listens to Mrs Zimba in a backyard garden. Photo Credit: FAO

Flanders President listens to Mrs Zimba in a backyard garden. Photo Credit: FAO

FAO Resilience Programme Officer, James Okoth, highlighted the significance of the joint collaboration that has moved from emergency response in the 2005/2006 cropping season following a severe dry spell that hit Kasungu to long-term programming.

The Government of Flanders has been instrumental in supporting agricultural production and nutrition education interventions (2007-2015) and is currently assisting farmers towards building marketing capacity and access through agriculture commercialization (2015-2020).

The Minister-President later heard directly from farmers regarding the concept of Farmer Field School and integrated homestead farming, emphasizing on the importance of crop diversification for nutrition and dietary diversification, incomes and hedging against climate change effects.

Particularly, farmers explained on the importance of crop diversification, and demonstrated how the food is prepared and combined to attain dietary diversification in which six food groups are consumed in a day from locally available foods.

Matolino Zimba, one of the project beneficiaries in Kasungu district, said he felt humbled and encouraged by such a high-ranking official visit to appreciate his farming activities in the district.

“I am happy because this [visit] encourages me to do more and better. For people like him [Minister-President] to come at my home shows that some people are appreciating what I am doing,” said Zimba, 50, from Galika Village, Kasungu District.

As a graduate of Tiyese Farmer Field School in 2012, Matolino practices integrated homestead gardening with a diversity of crops grown including maize, groundnuts, sweet potatoes, cassava, soya, cowpeas and vegetables.

He also practices backyard gardening, apiculture and keeps livestock such cattle, pigs, goats, chickens, ducks, guinea fowls and pigeons. In addition, he is involved in the production of fruit trees such as oranges, guavas, mangoes and bananas.

Gender and cultural mainstreaming

Olivetta Zimba, Matolino’s wife, explained that in addition to the backyard garden that is used for household consumption only, they also have another larger area for vegetable production, which is entirely a source of income.

On gender and cultural difference, James Okoth explained that the project implementation is gender inclusive as evidenced by 56 percent of women recruited so far.

The trainings are also relevant to both genders especially to women as they are deliberately scheduled to suit their participation. Empowerment of youths is also high on the agenda by targeting 100 youth groups.

Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, Joseph Mwanamvekha, appealed to farmers to emulate the good example of Matolino Zimba, which he said, “was in line with FAO mission of zero hunger and zero poverty.”

He reaffirmed the Government of Malawi’s commitment to facilitate farmers’ access viable markets, adding funds have already been set aside to buy farmers’ produce through state-owned agro-company, namely Agriculture Development and Marketing Corporation (ADMARC).

“We are aware that most farmers have challenges to access good markets but as government we will assist you find better markets,” he said.

About the Marketing Capacity Building Project

The Marketing Capacity Building Project in Kasungu and Mzimba, with funding from the Government of Flanders, is promoting crop diversification, food utilization and integrated homestead farming to improve household nutrition and reduce malnutrition. The project is using a value chain approach to understand the constraints and opportunities for specific enterprises. It also supports farmer linkages to the market and market information systems, through platforms such as commodity exchange, radio programs, market symposium, and mobile phone market-based services.  Furthermore, it encourages Village Saving and Loans (VSL) groups. The project intends to provide tailored skills development and mentoring to approximately 1000 farmer groups reaching out to 30,000 farming households by 2020. Furthermore, it is reaching out to staff of the Ministry of agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development and other partners through capacity building.

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For more information, contact:

Mike Chipalasa | Communications Officer | Email: Mike.Chipalasa@fao.org | Phone: +265 884 763 703

This news release was issued by FAO Malawi, Evelyn Court Plot 13/31, P.O. Box 30750, Lilongwe 3, Malawi. Follow us on Twitter: @FAOMalawi Website: http://www.fao.org/africa/en/