Cooperatives showcasing agri-business progress at agriculture fair

Blantyre: Farmers from various agriculture cooperatives from across the country are showcasing various success stories which they are attributing to team work.

The Shire River Basin Consortium is one of the organizations supporting various farm organizations to enhance their economic stand and in the process address food insecurity challenges in households.

The consortium’s business development coordinator, John Magombo told Malawi News Agency (Mana) on Thursday that the consortium is working with farmers in various organized groups in Mangochi and Salima who are realizing more financial gains through the power of group bargaining.

Through the cooperatives, farmers are in a better position to sell their produce at higher prices, access financial services and farmers are also able to share skills and good practices which in the end leads to better earnings, said Magombo.

He observed that the financial access aspect remained key to the realization of agri-business and industrialization, hence the deliberate link between the cooperatives and the Malawi Farmers Union, NASFAM (MUFUNA) SACCO which provide corporate loans at reasonable interest rates.

All cooperatives that belong to the MUFUNA SACCO are eligible to ten times of what they save in form of a loan which is payable at a 35 percent interest rate, Magombo said.

The World Food Program (WFP) is another organization which is also promoting the culture of team work among farmers for better proceeds.

The organization’s program associate for the Stallholder Farmers Agriculture Market Support project (SAMS) at WFP, Rodrick Nkhono said apart from just encouraging group work in form of cooperatives, they also promote women participation in their activities as one way of ensuring real gains trickling down to the community.

We have a deliberate policy which demands us to only support those cooperatives that have not less than 50 percent women representation, Magombo said.

Present at the ongoing agriculture fair is Lupanda Cooperative from Mzimba being supported by WFP and serves as an example of a women dominated group which is making strides in agri-business.

The Cooperative’s Oil Factory chairperson, Batiel Banda said apart from the two financial loans that the group accessed from Orant Charities in 2005 and 2010 respectively, the body has of late survived the recent years without borrowed funds which is a clear indication of success.

Currently Lupanda Cooperative has a 703 membership out of which, 572 are women who are also holding key positions, Banda said.

The cooperative is currently in the production, processing and value addition of sunflower oil, seed cake, nutritious porridge flour and a variety of legumes.

Agriculture remains the backbone of Malawi’s economy hence various efforts being made to promote the sector to a viable industry with structures like cooperatives proving remedial.

Source: Malawi News Agency MANA