Vegetable production improves earnings
Despite being widely grown in Malawi, adequate supplies of vegetables are only mostly available during the rainy season. As a result, supplies are scarce throughout the other part of the year. This was also the case at Khangale village, Group Village Headman Kambalani, Traditional Authority Kabudula in Lilongwe district some two years ago. Since the beginning of the Farmers First project in 2009, vegetable shortages have improved at Khangale village as the community is now enjoying vegetables throughout the year.
CPAR, uses Farmer Field schools to advocate for diversifying agricultural productivity by not only relying on rain-fed agriculture but also engaging farmers in winter crop production (or irrigated agriculture as it sometimes called) with an emphasis on vegetable production to ensure continued adequate supplies of vegetables for home consumption as well as for sale throughout the year.
Tikondane Farmer Field School (FFS) in Khangale village, has seen the benefits of vegetable production from both rainfed and winter cropping. Tikondane FFS was established in September 2009 and has a membership of 21 farmers of which nine are men and 12 are women. When Tikondane FFS was established in 2009, it went through several training sessions that included irrigation and winter cropping.
These training sessions have helped to boost the group’s knowledge in deciding on which crops to grow, when, and where as well as deciding beforehand where to sell their produce with more focus on market driven crop production. Their market assessment indicated that there was great demand for vegetables as most households need to eat vegetables on a daily basis.
In addition, with the availability of water throughout at their garden site, they were assured of the continued production of vegetables to even supply to the surrounding villages and market at Chikowa trading centre. Some of their critical needs were the initial inputs like vegetable seeds, watering cans and gardening forks which CPAR provided for them. Members themselves contributed labor, grass and poles for constructing the garden fence for their vegetable garden.
“In the first year, we grew vegetables most of which were exotic and included rape, Chinese cabbage, tomatoes and onions,” says Greenwell Dankeni one of the members of Tikondane FFS. “In that first year we did not get much from our garden because we worked on a small plot. Apart from sharing the vegetables to the members for household consumption, we managed to sell some vegetables and generated about $150.
In the second year, the FFS increased their production land from 0.2ha to 0.4ha and brought in more vegetables which included indigenous vegetables such as amaranthus. They also planted some fruit trees including 65 papaya trees and 38 guava trees around the garden and this will help to increase sales once the trees mature. During the 2011 winter cropping season, they have already produced $300 in income.
Instead of relying on cash generated from crops like maize, soya beans and groundnuts, vegetable production has also helped to provide them with an alternative source of income that is mostly missing during the off season. “Today, growing vegetables is one of our main activities at the Tikondane FFS,” says Christina Samuel one of the members of the group. “We know that by growing more vegetables we are contributing towards increased access to household income and building healthy families as vegetables provide essential vitamins and form part of a balanced diet for good health.”