Chakwera urges smallholder farmers to form cooperatives as he receives maize donation from Mdapepuka Cooperative

President Dr. Lazarus Chakwera has advised smallholder farmers in the country to form cooperatives to increase their bargaining power when selling their produce.

Chakwera made the advice at Kamuzu Palace on Friday when he received a donation of maize from Mdapepuka Farmers’ Cooperative from the outskirts of Lilongwe.

The cooperative was formed by smallholder farmers who benefitted from that Affordable Input Programme (AIP), which the current administration started implementing last agricultural year to improve food and nutrition security in the country.

Chakwera said cooperatives provide farmers with many opportunities and advantages such as improved access to agricultural financing and extension services and purchasing agricultural inputs in bulk thereby significantly reducing the cost of inputs.

Minister of Agriculture Robin Lowe captured with the Malawi leader during the presentation of AIP Progress Report at Kamuzu Palace-pic by Lisa Kadango

“Cooperatives increase farmers’ ability to identify output markets for agricultural produce and increasing farmers’ bargaining power thereby selling farm produce at relatively better prices,” he said.

Commenting on the donation, Chakwera said he was excited that the donation is coming from AIP beneficiaries.

He said he would ensure that the donated maize is put to good use.

“Our intention is to use this generous gift to bring relief to those whose food crops have not flourished, those who need relief from hunger presently. It is encouraging to me that this gift is the result of AIP, which millions of farmers have benefited from. By the success that this cooperative has registered because of it, I am given fresh courage to ensure that the AIP continues and succeeds again this year,” said Chakwera.

He said what Mdapepuka Farmers’ Cooperative had done in both the 2019/20 and 2020/21 farming seasons is a clear indication that with proper support and strengthened farmer organizations, Malawian farmers have the ability to transform the landscape of our agriculture.

The President expressed hope that other farmers will emulate the example and organize themselves into cooperatives to maximize the impact of the inputs.

“This is all in line with the Malawi 2063, Malawi’s long term vision. The Malawi 2063 recognizes the significance of increasing agricultural productivity and commercializing agriculture towards the creation of an inclusive, wealth and self-reliant nation. From the story of the Mdapepuka Farmers’ Cooperative, attaining the aspirations of the Malawi 2063 starts from the grass roots where farmers organize themselves into cooperatives,” said Chakwera.

Speaking earlier, the Minister of Agriculture, Lobin Lowe, said Mdapepuka Farmers’ Cooperative represents one of the success stories of AIP.

Lowe disclosed that members of the cooperative accessed agricultural inputs under the AIP and they managed to cultivate about 28.4 hectares of land collectively using the inputs they good from the AIP.

“Owing to the good weather experienced during the last growing season and good agricultural management practices, the cooperative realized an average yield of 3.7 metric tons per hectare which resulted in a total maize production of 106.5 metric tons. From this production, the cooperative planned to donate 12 metric tons of maize to the government which is a surplus from their production after reserving 94.5 metric tons for their home consumption,” he said.

Lowe thanked Seed-Co Malawi for providing financial support to the association to graduate into a cooperative.

“This is one of the beneficial relationships the ministry would like to see existing between farmers and agribusiness organizations in the agriculture sector. Thus agribusiness companies should not only be interested in making profits but also be concerned with the welfare of their clientele including seeing to it that they graduate from one level to another,” he said.

Secretary for the cooperative, Benamu Kanyenje, thanked the government for initiating AIP, saying it is an effective tool for addressing chronic hunger and nutrition problems in the country.

Mdapepuka Farmers’ Cooperative started as an association in 2015 with a membership of 62 farmers of which 42 were female and 20 were male.

Later on, with financial support from Seedco Malawi, the association was registered as a cooperative on 27th April, 2021.

Since the association became a farmer cooperative, its memberships grew to 71 farmers of which 35 are female, 30 are male and 6 are youths.

At the moment, the cooperative focuses on production of maize, soybeans and poultry at a small scale.

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