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Brighter Rays of Hope From Malawi Cotton Development Strategy

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For several years, the government of Malawi and different stakeholders in the cotton sub-sector, have worked towards improving the productivity of cotton and efficiency of the sector. One mile sprouting from this stakeholder collaboration is the development of Malawi Cotton Development Strategy (MCDS) which is a predecessor of Malawi Cotton Strategic Plan, that had a five year period for its full implementation from 2011-2016. The MCDS is expected to be implemented within a period of five years from 2019/20 to 2023/24. It aims at transforming the cotton sector and broadening its product range through innovation, agro-processing and value addition. The framework has been developed in view of the vital role that the Cotton crop can play in the economy of Malawi as a source of foreign exchange, livelihood support for farmers, and a source of raw materials for industries both local and international.

Different from the Malawi Cotton Strategic Plan which was developed whilst there existed the Cotton Development Trust (CDT) and a period that there was no existence of the cotton seed supply system, the MCDS has been developed in a period where there exist the Cotton Act (2013) which established the Cotton Council of Malawi and a period in which there is emphasis of cotton seed supply system. The Malawi Cotton Strategic plan (2011-2016) was as well developed without clearly stating the role of government and stakeholders were only required to commit of doing a particular initiative in the sector.

The new framework (MCDS) will be implemented under the vision of developing a competitive and sustainable cotton sector that spurs economic growth and development. The broader rationale for MCDS is to contribute to Malawi’s Agriculture Transformation Agenda, as outlined in the Malawi Development and Growth Strategy III, the National Agriculture Policy and the National Agriculture Investment Plan. In addition, it is rooted in the Cotton Act of 2013 that established the Cotton Council of Malawi asa regulator of the Cotton Sector. Due to low production levels in the cotton sector over the past years, it became imperative to develop a successful strategy to provide a clear road map to Government and all cotton stakeholders on how the sector should move forward to generate benefits for all. Therefore the MCDS will operationalize various agriculture related policies and strategies within the cotton sector in the next five years through harmonizing efforts and resources of various players within the cotton sector and steering coordination to achieve greater positive impact within a stipulated time frame. It is envisaged that the Cotton Sector, guided by this strategy, has the potential to significantly contribute to Agricultural Transformation in Malawi.

The MCDS is organized into 5 strategic pillars that cover 8 strategic objectives. The pillars include: production and productivity, research, technology generation and dissemination, policy and regulatory environment, trade and market competitiveness and institutional development and capacity building. Due to demolishment of ADMARC system, it has not been easy for farmers to access cotton inputs that can spur cotton productivity as they are becoming expensive for farmers. As such, the strategy in addressing production and productivity, it seeks to develop the cotton seed system to supply 100% of certified cotton seed locally by 2024. This will be implemented through production of certified cotton seed locally through research institutions. Furthermore, it will be achieved through supporting Seed Services Unit (SSU). The seed multiplication process will be done through engagement of small holder cotton growers through contract with seed houses. Increased seed cotton production to 200,000 MT and productivity to 2,000kg per ha by 2024 is expected through increasing area under rain-fed cotton production. The MCDS also seeks to increase capacity in cotton research and technology generation by 2024 by increasing availability and accessibility of cotton extension and advisory services by 20% by 2024 through developing, adapting and disseminating technical messages on cotton production technologies.

The MCDS is also tackling trade competitiveness and Market development to increase the value of cotton and cotton products for domestic and international markets by 40% by 2024 through strengthening cotton sector actors and their associations. It also aims at institutional development and capacity building through enhancement of knowledge management and information sharing among cotton stakeholders by 2024.

The lead implementing agency of the MCDS is the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water development in hope that the implementation of this strategy will be quick and effectively done unlike the preceding strategic plan which had less government intervention. The introduction of the Cotton Council of Malawi as a regulating body of cotton sector in the country has raised hopes for significant progress in the cotton sector as it was not in existence during the previous cotton strategic plan of 2011-2016. The body is mandated to promote, facilitate and monitor the functioning of production, marketing, processing and the export chain of cotton. The implementation of the MCDS is also facilitated by other line ministries, specifically, the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism which is expected to provide capacity building of small and medium businesses such as cooperatives and also facilitate business to business linkages through organization of trade fairs at national and international levels in collaboration with other line ministries. In addition, the ministry strengthens investment promotion through Public-private partnerships (PPP) arrangements.

The Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and other non-profit organizations involved in the Cotton value chain are very critical in the implementation of MCDS depending on their areas of interest. The roles of NGOs will include lobbying and advocacy for a favorable policy environment for the Sector, resource mobilization and capacity building in targeted Cotton value chain spaces, financial and technical support, enhancing access to inputs (including finance) and output market and further providing technical and financial support to value chain actors within the Cotton Sector. African Institute of Corporate Citizenship (AICC) and Farmers Union of Malawi (FUM) are the key NGOs that have been involved in supporting Cotton value chain initiatives. Therefore it is expected that interested NGOs will take part in the implementation of the new strategy towards achieving its main mission.

The MCDS requires the ministry of agriculture to promote cotton research in the main research centers in the country so that these centers are able to generate new technologies which include development of improved cotton seed varieties and again ensuring that the seed quality is of recommended standard through the seed services unit. Furthermore, the new strategy advocates for government’s role in delivery of cotton extension services through coordination with cotton officers in several ADDs in the country with help from AEDCs and AEDOs in such locations.

Financing in the agriculture sector by commercial banks is very limited. The main challenges include high interest rates, underdeveloped capital markets, lack of innovative financial instruments towards agribusiness and MSMEs, lack of collateral and low financial literacy. The new strategy therefore calls for crop insurance to mitigate against the uncertainties of low crop prices, natural and man-made disasters and climate change. This has been projected to highly benefit farmers as it guarantees them the ability to use collateral to access credit from financial institutions.

Farmers Urged To Turn To Horticulture As Tobacco Market Continues To Falter

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African Institute of Corporate Citizenship (AICC) and Dowa District Council chairperson have urged smallholder farmers in Malawi to seriously consider turning to horticulture as the market for the country’s green gold, tobacco, continues to falter.The council chairperson, Councilor Martin Luka Phiri, stated that horticulture is fast becoming lucrative business and can potentially replace faltering tobacco if government and its development partners can put meaningful investment in the sector. Phiri was speaking at Mponela, Dowa district during AICC’s horticulture fair. The fair is one of the activities under the Commercial Agribusiness for Sustainable Horticulture (CASH) Project which AICC is implementing in Dowa district in partnership with Norwegian Church Aid (NCA).

Under the project, a group of small scale horticulture farmers is taking part in piloting drip irrigation technology as a measure to mitigate poverty and build resilience to climate change while at the same time boosting production and productivity. One of the major goals of the project is to boost production and productivity to a level where some of the profits can be re-invested for further growth. In his remarks, Phiri stated that it is clear that the future of tobacco is hazy; hence the need for smallholder farmers to embrace other crops and use modern farming technologies to maximize yield.

 “Tobacco market and its prices have become a big insult to the smallholder farmers in the country. The farmers invested huge sums of money to produce the leaf only to come back from the market with tears rolling their cheeks because their produce did not fetch the much desired earning for them,” he said. “As tobacco market continues to fail us, let us turn to other fast-maturing crops such as vegetables and fruits to not only beat the effects of climate change, but also address food insecurity and low income earnings from agriculture. I therefore wish to urge farmers to embrace horticulture as a measure to fight poverty at household level,” added Phiri. However, the council chairperson pleaded with AICC and NCA to consider up scaling the initiative to other parts of Dowa and the country at large for other farmers to benefit from this initiative.

Forty three year old Mary Chadzala, one of the project beneficiaries, said she is realizing huge benefits from the sale of horticultural products. “I am now able to pay school fees for my five children, some of whom are in secondary schools with proceeds from the sale of vegetables. I am very grateful to AICC and NCA for introducing the project in Mndolera Extension Planning Area, where I belong to,” she reiterated. CASH project manager, Emmanuel Mponya said that the project is complementing the Young Innovative Farmer Initiative and the Sustainable Lead Farmer Project which AICC is equally implementing in Dowa. Mponya explained that the main objective of the project is to increase profitability for smallholder farming through drip irrigation and to increase production and productivity of horticultural produce. He added that the development logic behind this action is that increased access to profitable input and output horticulture markets to stimulate market-oriented horticultural production.  “AICC is pleased to note that the project is already bearing fruits with the 910 farmers we are currently working with. We have plans to expand to reach out to more farmers with this project so that more farmers can escape the yoke of poverty,” concluded Mponya.

Empowering Agribusiness Through Agribusiness Acceleration Initiative (AAI) Project

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Agribusiness in Malawi is a sector that encompasses farming and farming-related commercial activities. It involves all steps required to ferry an agricultural product to market ranging from production, processing and distribution. It is a significant component of the economy especially in a country like Malawi where agriculture employs 80% of the workforce and the economy is heavily reliant on agriculture. Being an agricultural economy that is characterized by a lot of smallholder farmers, agro dealers render a principal service that cannot be overemphasized.

As one way of empowering Agribusiness, AICC through its Agribusiness Acceleration Initiative (AAI) is building capacity of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) with high potential of growth through tailor-made Agribusiness solutions that includes; training in financial management, business governance, marketing principles, investment and supportive service delivery, among others. AAI is implemented with support from NORAD and it is a pilot project that has been running since 2018 and expected to end in 2020. AAI is contributing in various Agribusiness initiatives that includes; increasing the capacity of SME agribusiness to deliver market services to the smallholder market and also increasing commercial partnerships between SME agribusinesses and other market actors.

Through AICC’s Public Private Partnership approach, the project has so far, engaged and built partnerships with private sector players ranging from input suppliers, off-takers, supportive service providers, government as well as other regulatory service providers. SMEs have now been impacted with skills in diversification, record keeping, business formalization and women empowerment and marketing and service provision.

AICC has also skilled the SMEs with tailor-made all year round businesses models that are helping them to maintain their market relevance all year round rather than engaging themselves in rainfall reliant ventures. Skills in record keeping and business management have also helped SMEs to easily access finance and to be recognized with large scale businesses as their distributors among others.

One of the unique agro dealer under this project is Nkhwazi trading, a business located at Mibawa Bus Terminal. The agrodealer has improved in marketing strategies for the business which has led to an increased number of customers. The business has also increased in turnover and human resource on top of diversifying into cosmetics, electronics, clothes and other items.


  Nkhwazi, owner of Nkhwazi Trading in her diversified shop where she sells clothes and agri-chemicals

The project is equally targeting women business owners to strengthen their capacity in running their business. Pemba Agrodealers is such an enterprise which although owned jointly by the Pemba family, it is run by Mrs Pemba. The business is located in Chinamwali in Zomba. Mr Pemba and his wife joined the AAI project in December 2018. After successfully attending trainings by the project, AICC linked them to MONSANTO and has managed to mount demonstration field for DEKALB maize seed where the agrodealer has been providing private extension services to farmers, courtesy of AAI project.






© 2016 Charlie Maere and Dennis Lupenga Designs


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