Contract farming: Hope for Malawi tobacco farmers  

To some people who are far from it, its just a norm to be into tobacco farming but to other its their only means to survive. Its what brings joy and every hope in their lives annually, especially after selling tobacco at auction floor.

Tobacco, Malawi’s main foreign earner

Its an indisputable fact that tobacco has helped many for decades, live of people have changed, children have gone to school and many graduated to university and are now employed just because of the main cash crop Malawi has embraced for so may years.

However, with climate change taking its toll over the years, the rising of prices of seeds, fertilizers and pesticides, tobacco farming has become a challenge to farmers to meet the demand of quality leaves at the auction floors.

It is with this reason that some companies have shifted their approach to tobacco farming by coming out of the auction floors to the farmers in the rural areas by assisting them to produce quality leaves for better proceeds.

A new approach called Integrated Production System (IPS) farming which is widely known as ‘contract’ farming among the farmers has been established and it is paying dividents to many farmers.

“It was a choice I couldn’t resist after I analysed the market for some past years. I could see myself abandoning tobacco farming because I could manage to produce quality leaves for obvious reasons, lack of quality seeds, fertilizer and pesticides,” said 58 year old Ronald Mateche of Malango Village, TA Nkanda in Mchinji district district.

The success of Mateche started in 2008 when after working for so long in tobacco farming, he decided to join Alliance One Tobacco Limited under contract farming.

“It was during the first season I started breathing a new lease of life. In the past, there was nothing I could show for my sweat, but now my life has completely changed,” said a father of seven.

To date, Mateche boast of cattle, two maize mills a Toyota Spacious and a state of the art house right in the village.

“I now pay school fees for my children with ease something I used to struggle with in the past,” he said.

Just like Mateche, a nearby Zuwaluma village in the same Traditional Authority lies a year old success story of contract farming.

Since 1998, just like any farmer Jickson Shaw’s has been struglling with tobacco farming.

“The passion to do well was there but with little capital struggles were there. It was like I was doing it on trial basis every season,” he said.

It was in 2015 when he joined Alliance One Tobacco Limited contract farming system blew in the village through Tayambanawo Club.

Results of his choice were imminent because after the 2015-16 farming season, he realized MK2.7 million kwacha as profit from 27 flue cured tobacco bales and the foundation was laid.

The following year was also another success because from 24 flue cured tobacco bales, he carted home MK3.8 million after settling all debts.

A father of five, two who have just sat for their Malawi School Certificate of Education with the rest in primary and secondary schools, seen his life taking a bee dimension to success.

“It is from these proceeds that I decided to construct a new house and buy a Toyota half tonner for easy transportation and business,” he said.

It was a total departure from the old means of transport for Shaw’s who in the past used an ox cart.

Women participation in various jobs that were framed for men has improved in the country, thanks to many who have taken part to lobby for the same.

In the past, especially in the rural areas, women participation in farming was just like that of a helper, not someone at the core of business.

Soon after harvesting and sales, women were voiceless on what to do with the crop proceeds, now with contract farming, Alliance One Tobacco Limited has made women realise their potential in farming.

In Manthalekani village, Traditional Authority Chilowamatambe in Kasungu district, Ida Madisi is one of such women who have benefited in contract farming.

Though she is just two years old into the system, Madisi has managed to construct a state of the art house and has over 19 cows.

All the farmers under this system follow good agriculture labour practices which have seven principals such as child labour, fair treatment, forced labour, safe work environment, freedom of association, compliance with the law and income and work hours.

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