Collectiveness in spearheading root, tuber crops, empowering farmers

Concerned stakeholders are upscaling their efforts in food security through research driven initiatives and empowering farmers as well as formalising markets for produce.

Board Chairperson for Root and Tuber Crops Development Trust (RTCDT) Jean Pankuku at a Business to Business (B2B) workshop held in Blantyre disclosed that the platform was an important opportunity to address existing gaps.

She said the workshop was aimed at formalising the existing markets so as to avoid loses incurred when farmers decide to smuggle the goods outside Malawi through unchartered routes.

Board Chairperson for Root and Tuber Crops Development Trust (RTCDT) Jean Pankuku

“This will help to know the kind of products that we are able to produce thereby avoiding unnecessary imports. There are cases whereby we import without knowing that such products are also available in the country,” she observes.

To make it more effective, according to Pankuku, RTCDT is also working with Department for Agricultural Research Services (DARS) in achieving its goals that is not only focussing on high yield but also addressing nutritional values.

Deputy Director for DARS Dr Maggie Chipanthenga said her department is basing its output on regulatory services, type of varieties as well as demand driven products that are earmarked for international market.

“The good thing is that we are transitioning from single focus to multiple approach, for example, we are now coming up with varieties that are resilient to climate change conditions and nutritional part of it unlike in the past whereby the emphasis was only based on high yield,” she said.

Organic roots and tubers are good for health.

Collaboratively the projects are being undertaken together with Programme for Rural Irrigation Development (PRIDE) which is providing training for farmers in promoting good agricultural practices as well as construction of schemes now counting at about 5,250 hectares.

PRIDE Programme Manager Munday Makoko said that the other aim of working with RTCDT is to demystify the myths that tuber crops are only grown when there is little rains.

Makoko whose organisation’s goal is to, among other things, reduce vulnerability to food insecurity, to climate change effects and to vagaries of the market join hands with RTCDT to enable farmers to sustainably enhance their production levels to such a degree that they can provide for their household nutritional demands and deliver produce to viable markets.

On what the Trade Ministry is doing in protecting farmers from unscrupulous traders as well as enhancing value addition, Deputy Director responsible for SMEs, Limbikani Kachiwaya encouraged farmers to form cooperatives saying it is hard for government to deal with individuals.

“When people are in groups is easy for government to assist in terms of business training as well as access to loans. It is also easy to meet market demands when operating from a group because market supply requires consistency. It is therefore advisable for farmers to either form or join already existing cooperatives,” he said.

Despite being labelled as the highest Irish potato producer in the Sub Saharan Africa, Malawian farmers are struggling due to lower prices chiefly because of disorganisation among farmers as well as lack of the much needed publicity on where to get assistance looking at the fact that majority farmers are characterized by low literacy levels.

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