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Farmers in the Mchinji District of Malawi’s Central Region are learning best practices in growing groundnuts, in a government- and donor-funded program called Rural Livelihoods and Economic Enhancement Programme (RLEEP), launched in 2010.
Mchinji is one the districts where farmers have benefited through forming Farm Business Schools. The schools teach farmers how to approach farming as a business, and work with them to try out new farming methods.
This script explains how these farmers have transformed their lives by growing groundnuts, both in terms of their farming practices and the benefits to their families. It is based on interviews with farmers from Mwati Section of Chiosya Extension Planning Area (EPA) in Mchinji, and with the Deputy Agriculture Coordinator for the EPA.
You could use this script as inspiration to research and write a script on groundnuts, on farmer field schools or business schools, or a similar topic in your area. Or you might choose to produce this script on your station, using voice actors to represent the speakers. If so, please make sure to tell your audience at the beginning of the program that the voices are those of actors, not the original people involved in the interviews.
If you choose to use this script as background material or as inspiration for creating your own program on groundnuts, you might consider the following questions:
Are groundnuts purely or mainly a subsistence crop in your area? If so, are there ways in which farmers who grow groundnuts only for home use or grow only a little for sale can improve their yields and earn more income from groundnuts? If so, how? Are there low-cost practices which will increase their yields? Will joining a farmers’ group help them increase their yields and/or lower the cost of production?
You could also use these questions as the basis of a phone-in or text-in show.
Do local growers of groundnuts or other crops keep track of their expenditures so that they know what price they must sell in order to earn a good profit? If not, are there resources available to help them keep records and conduct their farming business more effectively?
Do both women and men farmers grow groundnuts in your area? If so, are there differences in the way they approach groundnut farming? Are there differences in the way they market their groundnuts? Are there differences in the varieties they choose to grow? If so, what criteria do each (men and women) use to choose the varieties they grow?
Estimated running time for this script: 27 minutes with intro and outro music.
Host (studio presenter)
Field reporter (George Kalungwe)
Farmers: Ignansio Chisale (male) and Austokia Jumbe (female)
Extension workers: George Kasokola, Deputy Agriculture Extension Development Coordinator, Chiosya Agricultural Extension Planning Area, Mchinji, Malawi
Welcome to the program. Today we focus on how some groundnut farmers in Malawi have transformed their lives through approaching farming as a business.
In Malawi, groundnut is an important cash and food crop and is widely grown by small-scale farmers. As the tobacco market declines, groundnut is one of the crops with potential benefits for small-scale farmers. This is especially true for women who grow groundnuts both for consumption and family income.
Groundnuts provide protein, edible oil, fat, energy, minerals and vitamins. In the soil, they fix nitrogen and improve soil fertility, which reduces the use of chemical fertilizer. They are also a nutritional source of livestock feed.
In this program, we travel to Mchinji District, in the western part of Malawi bordering Zambia.
Here, a government-funded program called Rural Livelihoods and Economic Enhancement Programme, or RLEEP, is helping farmers improve their groundnut production and marketing skills.
We shall be talking to two farmers who have transformed their lives by growing the crop. These farmers are members of Mwati Farm Business School or FBS. When they’ve finished their farm work, they enjoy singing. Here is one of their songs:
What is FBS, madam?
FBS is a school that teaches farmers to take farming as a business.
Madam, don’t just sit idle, come and learn what your friends are doing.
Man, don’t just sit idle, come and learn what your friends are doing.
We, your friends, started an FBS.
FBS is a school for farming as a business.
And our farming has improved.
Our farming has been improving through FBS.
Why don’t you join us?
Today we have with us two farmers who have made it big in groundnut farming. Perhaps you can use what they say to help you become a successful groundnut farmer.
My producer George Kalungwe travelled to Che-Yadi village to talk to these farmers and their advisor. Now, let me introduce to you our farmers.
My name is Ignansio Chisale. I come from Chisaka village, Traditional Authority Zulu. I’m married with five children. My firstborn, a girl, completed form four last year. The second is a boy who is in form three, another boy is in standard eight, another is in standard five, and the lastborn is a girl in standard one.
Madam, I would also like to know more about you.
I’m Austokia Jumbe. I come from Kankonere village. I have six children. The firstborn is in Lilongwe where she is working with a University of North Carolina project. Another is right here with me in this village, while another works at Ludzi Health Centre as a doctor. The rest are in primary school.
I started groundnut farming before I got married in the 1960s.
How big is your groundnut field?
My groundnut field is about five or five and a half acres.
Mr. Chisale, how about you? What’s the size of your farm?
This year I planted three acres of groundnuts. But my whole field is about six acres. I practice crop rotation, so I divide the field in various parts, and grow other types of crops in the other sections.
The journey to success for these two farmers has not been easy. They faced many challenges before they started growing groundnuts for business.
In my first years of farming, I grew groundnuts. However, it was not for selling. This is my second year to grow groundnuts on a commercial basis. I started taking groundnut production seriously after I was trained in farming as a business through RLEEP.
What happened to get you involved in growing groundnuts as a business, Madam?
I got involved with this group through Group Village Headman Kankonore. He told me that I had been selected to be part of this group. They chose me because I had been involved in groundnut production for a long time.
And you, Mr. Chisale, how did you get involved in this group?
I had been doing vegetable farming and everyone knew me for it in this area. When I heard that farmers were being organized for groundnut production, I contacted our agricultural advisor. I worked with him to establish this group.
What prompted you to join, Madam?
I knew it was going to be beneficial for me compared to how I used to work before. Life is now difficult economically. It is only those who join groups that find life easier. I was very happy when I joined the group. As I went home, I smiled all the way. I couldn’t wait to go again! (ALL LAUGH)
Mr. Chisale, what was the role of RLEEP?
RLEEP came here to educate farmers about groundnut production.RLEEP assisted us with training and other needs.
The other objective was to help us sell our produce as a group. We were told that we would be buying farm inputs as a group and not as individuals. For example, it is costly for an individual to pay transport, buy hoes and fertilizer. If you are in a group, you reduce the cost because each member contributes.
Before we hear more from the two farmers about their journey to success, let’s have a bit of background on the RLEEP project. George Kalungwe speaks to Chiosya Area’s deputy agricultural extension development coordinator.
Thank you so much. My name is George M. Kasokola.
How did the project promoting groundnut production as a business start in this area?
The background to this project is that Mchinji district, particularly in Chiosya, is one of the places where groundnuts have been grown for a long time. But people did not see the crop as lucrative because they did not approach their farming as a business.
When RLEEP saw this, it came in 2010 to train extension workers on farming as a business.
The extension workers taught the farmers how to form Farm Business Schools, which are used as training forums for farmers to approach farming as a business. Firstly, the farmers are taught better farming practices. This helps them to have better yields. Then, they are taught how to market their groundnuts.
What was the major challenge that the farmers here faced in doing farming as a business?
In the past, farmers could not differentiate between their profits and what they spent on production. They were happy with the money they received after selling. They called that money “profit” without knowing how much they had spent and subtracting that from what they had earned to know their real profit.
For example, a farmer could spend 20,000 Kwacha ($60 US) on production and in the end receive 18,000 Kwacha ($54 US) after selling the crop. Because the farmer sees that he or she has made a lot of money all at once, they think that is the profit, forgetting how much they spent on seed and ridge-making as well as their physical labour. But now, after calculating production costs, farmers are able to decide what is a profitable price for their crop.
The Farm Business School takes about a year because there are many things we teach the farmers, for example, business plans, marketing skills and how to calculate profits. The school starts from sourcing seed and ends with groundnut seed, a full cycle.
We have heard that these farmers transformed their lives by approaching farming as a business. Let’s now hear how the Farm Business School is organized and how it operates as a farmers group.
We formed the group in 2011 on December 7. On the same day, we conducted elections for various positions and came up with rules and regulations to guide our operations.
We have just received our certificates from RLEEP. We were trained by our extension worker with assistance from RLEEP. Those of us who graduated have opened schools in our areas. We come from different villages, so each of us has established a school in our villages where we are teaching fellow farmers all the things we were taught by agricultural advisors. In that way, the skills reach more people.
Madam, do you have that certificate?
How does it make you feel?
I feel very proud because previously I did not think I would have such a certificate.
I understand that you teach your fellow farmers how to do their farming as a business. How many people have you trained?
Currently, I am training six people. I told them to buy notebooks and copy the notes which I made from my training to read at home. I tell them to refer to the notes every time they want to work in their gardens. I believe in groundnut so much. I believe that groundnut is the best crop because it brings fast money to my household.
Apart from groundnut, what other crops do you grow?
I grow beans and maize. Sometimes I grow tobacco when there are good prospects for the market.
But I find groundnuts more productive, unlike tobacco which is too involving. You need to have trees for curing, a jack for making bales, transport to the auction floors, and many other things, so you spend a lot of money.
The good thing about groundnut is that you do not need many inputs and there is less labour. After planting, the next thing you do is weeding, then harvesting and taking the crop home to wait for the markets to open.
Mr. Chisale, have you also settled on groundnut?
In terms of business, I think groundnuts are the best. When you are choosing a crop to grow, you need to consider production costs. You can grow tobacco, maize, and potatoes for business. But of all these crops, I find groundnut the most productive since I spend less on inputs but make enough profit. So in terms of business, I am settled for groundnut.
Mr. Chisale, did you get any financial loans?
I got a loan from Exagris Africa, mainly for CG7 seed, and I have now managed to pay back all of it.
What type of loan was it and how much have you paid back?
Exagris Africa gave us 20 kilograms of groundnut seed and we paid a deposit of 800 Kwacha (US $2.50). In the end, we paid back 36 kilograms of unshelled groundnuts.
Mrs. Jumbe, do you intend to sell some of your groundnut harvest?
Yes, I want to sell most of it.
How do you intend to sell it?
We have been advised to wait until the prices pick up. So we will not sell it just now, but wait for several months, probably up to October. We sell our produce as a group, not as individuals. This increases our bargaining power. We want to find a good market and sell our produce for a good price.
Mr. Chisale, what can you say about markets and how you intend to sell your produce?
Based on what we have been taught, firstly we calculate how much we have spent in the production process. So when a buyer makes an offer, we check if we will make enough profit before we accept the offer. If not, we don’t sell. If we will make a good profit, we sell.
Here on (name of radio station), you are listening to (title of program) with me (name of host). We have just heard how farmers from Mwati Farm Business School in Malawi intend to sell their produce to make a good profit. This is one of the skills they learned from their area agricultural advisor, Mr. Kasokola. He explains.
Our training emphasizes that farmers operate in groups. Here in Malawi, most farmers do not have enough capital to grow a lot of groundnuts. So we encourage several farmers to bring their harvest together and sell it as a group to save on, for example, the cost of transport to the market.
When they bring together their produce, they have a huge tonnage which attracts large buyers. Selling as a group increases their bargaining power.
There are many vendors going around the villages to buy produce. Some of them adjust their scales to cheat farmers. If the farmers are in a group, they can challenge that and try to find a perfect buyer. An individual farmer cannot do that. That’s why we encourage group selling approach.
Before we hear how the lives of Mrs. Jumbe and Mr. Chisale have been transformed and their plans for the future, Mr. Kasokola speaks on the knowledge he has been sharing with the farmers.
First, we encourage farmers to plant early so that their crop gets adequate moisture and is able to utilize nutrients in the soil. Second, we teach them to avoid aflatoxin contamination in their groundnuts. You know, groundnut is an edible crop. If people eat contaminated groundnuts, it will have an effect on their health in the long run. This is why we emphasize that groundnuts must be disease-free. If your groundnut has high aflatoxin levels, it cannot sell, for example, in European countries.
We urge farmers to follow good agricultural practices from field to storage. Aflatoxin can occur in the garden, so we need to take good care of the crop in the field. We also need to take extra care when digging the groundnut because that’s another risky time when aflatoxin contamination can occur.
In terms of planting, you must ensure that your ridges are spaced at 75 centimetres. If you are using flat ground, lines must be spaced at 60 centimetres apart. There should be no gaps between the crops. For example, if you are planting CG7, the space between planting stations should be 15 centimetres. This variety has big seeds, whereas for Kasinjiro, which has small seeds, the spacing should be 10 centimetres. We teach farmers to plant double rows on ridges that are 75 centimetres apart. This ensures a high yield and makes sure that the soil is well-covered so it can retain moisture.
The farmers grow different varieties of groundnuts. Can they mix those different varieties in the same plot?
The farmers have learnt that different groundnut varieties should not be planted on a single plot, and to separate different types when harvesting. That separation is the first stage in grading.
I understand that some farmers have also applied fertilizer to their groundnuts. I didn’t think that was usually done.
We have been doing that on a trial basis in some parts of Mchinji to test the performance of groundnuts that are grown with chemical fertilizer. We have seen that the groundnuts with fertilizer had a lot bigger yields than those without.
This year an NGO provided the farmers with gypsum, a lime-like powder that is used as a top dressing fertilizer. You apply it to the crop when it has just started flowering. We think more people will adopt this in future because it is proving effective.
Mr. Kasokola mentioned the trial of using fertilizer in groundnuts. Mr. Chisale and Mrs. Jumbe were both involved in this trial.
Using fertilizer helps groundnut do very well. When we construct our ridges, we slit each ridge down the middle, and apply D Compound fertilizer by spreading it on top of the split ridge. We make ridges that are 40 metres long, and on that length we use one litre of fertilizer. After applying the fertilizer, we cover it with soil and wait for the rains to come.
After planting with the first rains, we continuously inspect the garden. When we find that three of every ten plants have started flowering, we apply the second type of fertilizer called gypsum. Gypsum looks like maize flour. We apply it on the soil around the plants, using the same one-litre amount as D compound.
This is (name of host) on (name of radio station), and you are listening to (title of program). We have heard about the techniques that farmers use and the assistance they get from extension workers. Soon we shall hear how their lives have been transformed and their future plans. But now we will take a break by listening to this poem by one of the group’s members.
I’m Willard M. Simani. I have a poem. The title is: What are you doing in your area?
What are you doing in your area?
I’m asking what you are doing in your area.
Here we are learning in a farm business school.
We are learning to take farming as a business.
I am asking, what are you doing in your area?
Here, we now know all that it takes to do good farming.
Ah, old farming practices? We stopped them long ago!
We are in an FBS – a school that teaches farming as business.
Farming which was done by our forefathers in 1929?
Ah, here we stopped that long ago!
I am asking, what are you doing in your area?
Here our lives have changed, especially with groundnut farming.
On a small plot, harvesting more!
We have advisors working with us every day in our FBS.
I am asking, what are you doing in your area?
We have joined hands with government extension workers and RLEEP advisors on groundnut production and marketing in our FBS.
Here we are united.
Ah! A true friend is the one who gives you the right advice.
That was a poem, recited by one of the youth in Che-Yadi village. If you are just joining us, you are tuned to (name of station). In this program, we are looking at the successes of groundnut farmers in Mchinji, a district in central Malawi.
By enrolling in
a farm business school, Mrs. Jumbe and Mr. Chisale have not only transformed their lives socially, but also their farming practices.
Yes, my farming practice has changed. Firstly, I divide my field into different sections so I can grow different crops on each plot. Secondly, I have learnt the tricks of how to harvest a lot from a small plot. Previously, we made ridges regardless of whether we would make a profit or not. That has now changed.
How much groundnut did you harvest this year?
On the 84 ridges that I experimented on practicing farming as a business, I harvested one and a half oxcarts (Editor’s note: One oxcart is about half a tonne of groundnuts.
) That’s just on the experimental plot. In total, I harvested five and a half oxcarts.
In the experiment where we tried out fertilizer, I was one of those that used fertilizer and my crop did well. I harvested 67 buckets (Editor’s note:Normally these are 20-litre pails which weigh 16 kilos.
Mr. Kasokola, as the deputy agricultural extension development coordinator for this area, what changes have you seen in the farmers since they started approaching farming as a business?
Before we started teaching the farmers to approach farming as a business, they did not know to make a business plan. A business plan helps them understand what they have spent and at what price to sell their produce to make a profit.
The farmers are now well-organized. For example, they constructed this building we are in with some of their profits in order to have a proper meeting place.
The farmers started to see the benefits of farming two years ago when they started approaching farming as a business. So, how have their lives changed?
My family life has significantly changed since I started farming groundnuts as a business. Now I have money to buy household necessities such as soap, and I am also able to buy fertilizer for other crops as well as pay school fees for my children.
Did you have problems before you started groundnut production as a business?
Indeed, I had various problems because I relied only on my husband to provide for household needs. But since I started growing groundnuts as a business, I meet all household needs through the money I get.
Can you tell me how much you make per season from groundnut production?
I make a lot of money, sometimes more than 100,000 Kwacha (about $300 US). I use part of it to buy fertilizer and the rest for my children’s school fees and household needs. This year, I expect to earn more than in the past because God has blessed me with a big harvest. I expect to double my previous earnings or more.
Mr. Chisale, has your life changed as a result of groundnut farming?
First, let me say that I was once employed. But I stopped after a short time to concentrate on farming. Unlike the job, farming has helped to transform my life. When I was working, my salary would hardly last through the month. Sometimes my children were sent home from school because of delays in paying school fees. But now I am sending my children to school without any problem. One of my children just finished form four and I expect to send him to college. I am not worried because I know I will be able to pay for whichever course he wants to take. I also have no problem getting household necessities.
Following the success they have experienced in the past two years, Mrs. Jumbe and Mr. Chisale have big plans for the future.
My major focus for the future is educating my children, so I will increase the acreage of my groundnut production. I will plant enough seed for 10 acres this year, but with the expertise we have learnt from RLEEP it means I will just need a five-acre garden. Remember we plant two rows on a single ridge.
After educating my children, I would like to build a better house with an iron sheet roof so that I can live a happy life myself. .
Mrs. Jumbe, what are your future plans?
I would like to grow seven or eight acres of groundnut this year. I see a bright future if I continue to follow the advice I have been given. Currently, my house has no cement floor. But next year, I know I will have a cement floor in my house and change the roof from grass-thatched to iron sheets.
Is there anything you would like to add?
I would like to encourage my fellow farmers to take groundnut farming seriously because it is very rewarding. If they want to receive maximum profits, they should have a well-focused business plan. The plan guides you what to do at the right time, for example when to apply fertilizer or harvest your crop.
Farmers should see themselves as business people. It is not only shop owners who do business. Even we farmers are business people. We should not underestimate ourselves.
That was the voice of Mr. Ignansio Chisale, chairperson of Mwati Farm Business School in Mchinji District, central Malawi. He was joined by Mrs. Austokia Jumbe, a member of the school. They are two of the groundnut farmers who have transformed their lives through farming as a business.
We have heard that following proper farming practices help farmers transform their lives. For instance, farmers must have a business plan to guide them in the production process so that they are able to differentiate between profits and expenditures.
This is where we will end the program today.
If you have any questions or comments about the RLEEP groundnut program in Malawi, contact:
The National Program Director (Dickson Ngwende)
Rural Livelihoods Economic Enhancement Programme
P.O BOX 30312, Lilongwe, 3, Malawi
Phone: + 888 216 000
You have been with me, (name of host).
Contributed by: George Kalungwe, Chief Sub-editor/Producer, Zodiak Broadcasting Station, Malawi, a Farm Radio International broadcasting partner.
Reviewed by: Dr. Justus Chintu, Research Scientist (groundnut breeding), Department of Agricultural Research Services, and Dr. Philip Kamwendo, Project Coordinator-Consultant, IFAD – SPIP Consultant, Co Rural Livelihoods and Economic Enhancement Programme (RLEEP).
Project undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD)
Ignansio Chisale and Austokia Jumbe – July 6, 2013
George Kasokola, Deputy Agriculture Extension Development Coordinator, Chiosya Agricultural Extension Area, Mchinji, Malawi – July 6, 2013