Feeding more people and offering a better and guaranteed income to farmers: with support from the Koppert Foundation, corn production in Malawi is being lifted to a higher level.
Corn is the number one food in Malawi, but the yield generated through traditional growing methods remains low. Farmers are left in a poor financial position, as they need to sell their corn immediately after harvesting it due to lack of storage, meaning they cannot wait until prices are a little higher. The Art of Charity Foundation is running a project called Food for Life in Malawi. This project, supported by the Koppert Foundation, among others, is taking a creative approach to solving these problems.
The farmers are given a three-year training course, on which they learn to produce good-quality enriched compost as a replacement for artificial fertilizer. By this point, the farmers have transitioned from using a small quantity of artificial fertilizer to no artificial fertilizer at all — and they couldn’t have timed that better, as the price of artificial fertilizer has risen to three times what it was before this year. The use of compost is also helping the soil retain water much better.
In small groups, the farmers are learning about different growing methods with higher yields. As a result, they have seen their yield rise by a factor of seven compared to traditional non-fertilized or lightly fertilized fields.
Food for Life then buys their crop at a guaranteed price. The farmers are paid twice a year, meaning they can rest assured they are getting a fixed income, and enabling them to buy materials for the season to come. Participants who have just joined the programme are given a small amount to cover their start-up costs.
The project also focuses on reducing post-harvest storage losses. The corn is now stored in more robust bags, so that insects and rodents don't stand a chance. The organization sells the produce when market prices are high, and the profit is used to cover transport and storage costs.
Food for 100,000 people
Koppert Foundation supported the project in 2021, and has decided to continue doing so in 2022 and 2023. Last year, 4,600 farmers were enrolled on the programme. According to the Food for Life website, that number has since grown to 7,000, securing a daily food supply to 100,000 people across the country. The eventual aim is to see that figure grow by 2025 to one million people who can count on a daily supply of food.
Last May, to much public interest, a demo was organized showing the best way to create enriched compost. The local media picked up on the story too, meaning news of the innovative approach has spread even further.
Bo Teerling, the chair of Food for Life, believes the project is having the desired effect: ‘Once a farmer has been included in the supply chain, they receive a fixed income without any external funds being required to keep the process up and running.’
Eventually, the organization behind Food for Life will be able to operate fully independently, meaning everything can be handled locally, and no more external funding is required.
Visit https://foodforlifemalawi.com/ to find out more.