Thirty-six tomato smallholder farmers under Kaphatiyi Cooperative in Mchinji recently visited a model Agricultural Smart Farm located at LUANAR-NRC campus in Lilongwe to learn more about increased tomato production and incomes.
During the visit, the farmers attended a research dissemination session of a study eight master’s degree students of Israel’s Tel Aviv University conducted on the effectiveness of a net-house in reducing pest infestations in tomatoes.
Four of the students are Malawians who were sponsored by the Rotary Club of Lilongwe to study at the University. The remaining students were from Ghana and Israel.
The horticultural study also sought to measure the economic viability of using a net-house in tomato production to increase revenue for smallholder farmers in Malawi.
Ides Samson, 42, who is treasurer of the cooperative said she was excited to physically visit the farm to learn more about how net-houses contribute to increased tomato production.
“Back home, we are used to growing tomatoes on open fields. But here the students have told us how net-houses can help us increase production and earn more. We have learned that there are also reduced production costs growing tomato in the net-houses than when you grow tomatoes on open grounds,” said ides, a tomato farmer from Kalinde Village, T/a Mduwa in Mchinji.
Lukas Nkhata, 64, a lead farmer and member of the cooperative echoed her views. “This is the first time I have seen a net-house. I have learnt that with this technology, a farmer is assured of high yields per unit area and therefore more income from the market. We want to see if we can adopt this net-house technology,” said Lukas.
The Centre for Agricultural Transformation (CAT) provided technical support to the students to do the four-month study at its Smart Farm, with funding from the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World through Agricultural Transformation Initiative (ATI)
CAT Executive Director, Macleod Nkhoma, applauded the farmers for coming to the Smart Farm to learn about various technologies that would help them increase tomato yields and incomes to better support their families.
The research dissemination session was sponsored by Small Fam Cities Africa – a farmer centric organization based in Lilongwe which buys produce from smallholder farmers and offers them wide-ranging agricultural extension services to enhance their productivity.