Farmers in Malawi have revealed that contract farming might help them increase and improve their access to resources, as well as raise agricultural productivity.

Smallholder rice farmers in Machinga’s Domasi Irrigation Scheme have requested assistance from the government and the Farmers Union of Malawi (FUM) in identifying companies and organizations with which they might join into contracts.

Small-scale rice farmers suffer a variety of production and marketing restrictions, according to the scheme’s chairwoman Anderson Chapita, including restricted access to services, such as effective extension and rural financing, which are critical pre-conditions for upgrading commodity value chains.

“Contract farming could also help us access better markets for our crop and guarantee us an adequate supply of raw materials to agro-based industries. Currently, we are selling our yield to the vendors who usually over uncompetitive prices,” he said.

Meanwhile, FUM is leading a consortium of three other local organizations, namely the Center for Environmental Policy and Advocacy (CEPA), Civil Society Agriculture Network (CISANET), and the Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI), in the implementation of Strengthening Inclusive Agriculture Sector Growth and Sustainable Natural Resources Governance in Malawi project.

The project is being funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and is designed to increase agricultural production and productivity, access to markets and agricultural financing, and achieve an increased policy environment for commercialization and natural resource governance.

The consortium has also supported the farmers with various training in rice production methods and seed multiplication to improve farmers’ access to quality seed.

FUM Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Specialist, Derrick Kapolo, said the project is leveraging on various interventions that have been implemented in Malawi and is largely address various farmers’ constraints through capacity-building efforts, improved agricultural extension delivery, improved technology transfer, agriculture policy reform and implementation, and better transparent and sustainable natural resources management.

“Using a collaborative approach, the project brings together various stakeholders in the agriculture sector including farmers, farmers’ organizations, non-state actors (NSAs), the private sector, civil society organizations and government ministries and departments,” said Kapolo.

He said Domasi Irrigation Scheme is one of the schemes the consortium is working with to achieve its goal of inclusive and sustainable agricultural-led economic growth through an agricultural transformation in Malawi.

Kapolo said that the project is already working on facilitating strategic business linkages between the scheme and off-takers. This is in line with the second objective of the project.

The scheme has 500 hectares of which 470 hectares are being used. The scheme has a membership of 2, 057 farmers of which 1, 058 are male while 999 are female.

The current annual tonnage for the scheme stands at 230 metric tonnes, but the farmers say there is potential to increase the tonnage.

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