Here are some of our stories. Of course we have chosen some of the better cases for illustration of our work. But make no mistake, these stories are not exaggerated. They are the stories of some of the more motivated and resourceful farmers with whom we have dealt and they reflect a certain enthusiasm and commitment which exists within the broader communities where they live.
Mwera Mkaka dairy processing plant
Mwera is a small village about 100 km north of Lilongwe, Malawi.
Mwera Hills is situated in Ntchisi district in the central region of Malawi. It is one of the main project sites of SSLLP. There are 254 families with dairy cattle in this community. SSLLP with assistance from Bothar Ireland assisted these families with dairy cattle and mini-milk processing plant. Mwera Mkaka group has grown into a dairy production and processing cooperative. Farmers deliver their milk at the factory where it is processed into various products such as fresh milk, yoghurt and fermented milk (chambiko) within their community. These products are sold in
surrounding towns and Lilongwe city. This is a unique initiative of encouraging agro-processing and value adding by smallholder farmers in their communities. This factory has assisted farmers to sale their milk at a higher price, provided employment to local experts and it’s a community asset. The animals that SSLLP distribute in rural communities have changed many lives. Families that never had a viable income generating activity now enjoy a monthly income from dairy sales. Farmers with dairy animals earn on average $200 per month. Rural families are now able to access animal protein from eggs, goat and pig meat. SSLLP animals have assisted many families to send their children to school, some families have managed to educate their children up to college through livestock they received from SSLLP. In Mwera hills dairy farmers have bought household assets such as radios and bicycles and built burnt brick houses with corrugated iron sheets.
Mwera Mkaka Dairy processing unit
Mrs Ellinati Zimba
A modest dairy farmer, a Malawian woman who clearly has benefited from the dairy project SSLLP implemented.
SSLLP seeks to empower people through various interventions, it targets poverty reduction, food and nutrition security and also environmental sustainability. SSLLP is concerned with women involvement in developmental issues, and so it promotes their involvement in its projects.
Mrs. Zimba is one of the female dairy farmers in Likuni that has benefited from a dairy project that SSLLP undertook in 2003 where she was one of the beneficiaries to be given a hybrid dairy cow that came with its calf. Fourteen years down the line, she is still reaping the benefits of this project.
She elaborates how she benefited from the project, saying that the dairy cows have been a source of manure, nutritious milk for her and her family and also that she makes money by selling the milk and also when she sells the cattle. Mrs. Zimba is able to harvest a lot of maize from her small plot of land because of the fertility that the manure provides.
The project has indeed benefited her and other farmers who received these cows because there has been continuity because the cattle keep flourishing.
Mrs. Zimba in her dairy cattle kraal.
Mrs. Queen Msukwa
Queen Msukwa is a member of Chitemwano goat group; a group that benefitted from project goats in 2013.
Karonga is a disaster prone district in Northern Malawi, often hit by climate related disasters which include dry spells, strong winds, floods and earthquakes which impact on local vulnerable communities reducing their capacity to produce enough food to eat.
The Developing Innovative Solutions with Communities to Overcome Vulnerability through Enhanced Resilience (DISCOVER) Project is helping farmers to build their resilience to the disasters through different interventions. One of the interventions is livestock which involves capacity building and provision of livestock (exotic pigs, improved goats and chickens) to vulnerable households.
Queen Msukwa is a member of Chitemwano goat group; a group that benefitted from project goats in 2013. The group managed to pay back all passes on to another group; Kondwani womens goat group, in the same area of Zengeranjala, GVH Njalayankhunda, TA Wasambo.
Later in the year her husband who belongs to Wanangwa piggery group benefitted 2 exotic pigs (sow & boar) from the project. The household was re-identified for sustainability sake as they showed interest and had capacity to construct recommended piggery unit and manage the pigs properly. These farmers are first trained in good livestock management, breeding, livestock pass-on scheme and group dynamics/ leadership prior to receipt of their respective livestock.
The livestock provided to the farmers have more than one benefit. Primarily, livestock are living banks which can be sold when crops fail due to drought or floods and there are food shortages. They also produce dung that is used to make very rich khola manure. Provision of livestock to communities has also improved access to manure by farmers. Manure enhances moisture retention and fertilises crops besides improving soil texture.
Considering the expensiveness and unreliability of chemical fertilisers, Queen decided to use khola manure for her garden around the homestead. She started collecting dung from both goat and pig kholas and kept them at a well prepared pit. She mixes the dung with household wastes and some soil. She then removes the content when it is mature and ready. She does so for times and accumulates more manure.
This year Queen used khola manure for her gardens and she has managed to harvest more as compared to when she does not use manure. “Khola manure has assisted us so much, we expecting to harvest at least 600 kg from this half acre piece of land which could not produce any harvests at all before”, narrated Queen. “Even though there were dry spells in the year but the plot where I used manure, maize looked better and survived with little rains (showers). It remained greener and stronger and produced big cobs”, she added.
The plot adjacent to this one had no manure applied and the maize did not do well, it dried up due to dry spells experienced. Even before the dry spells the maize looked very pale as compared to the ones where manure and chemical fertilisers were used. “Khola manure has even perfomed better than chemical fertilizers because the plot where I used fertilisers, maize dried up during the dry spells even though it looked greener. Furthermore, the soils could not hold water and gradually turned into sandy loam but previously it was deep loam soil”, added Queen. Initially Queen and fellow farmers in the area could not believe that khola manure could perform such wonder and found it cumbersome to gather manure from their livestock kholas. But with training from the project on good livestock management, manure collection, making and application; it has been possible and easy to use this cheap manure and produce more. “Some members of our group thought manure were useless but with what has happened in my garden and those that used manure, those members have started gathering manure for next growing season”, boasted Queen. While preparing for next growing season, Queen is also collecting dung and making manure for her maize fields. She even plans to make more manure so that all her field around the homestead are applied with manure. “This is a testimony to my village; things we thought are useless now have saved us from dry spells.
We really thank SSLLP through the DISCOVER Project for their timely assistance in terms of livestock plus other interventions and capacity building. This year many people are interested in using khola manure and we are encouraging others never to dump livestock dung and household wastes any-how. These can save us from dry spells through making manure. Manure saves money, are readily available and very cheap to prepare than chemical fertilisers; they make crops survive even with little rains, they have enough nutrients for crops and they also improve our soils”, concluded Queen.
Not your average 75 year old
Yes, Zangaphe Kadewere is 75 years old and cannot wait till next year to see the results of further use of manure on his maize crop. Kadewere lives in the beautiful Thyolo district of Southern Malawi, renowned for its tea estates. Kadewere received a dairy cow some years ago under the “pass on the gift” system. Apart from the milk he receives, he has taken a particular interest in using manure as a substitute for chemical fertilizer.
Not your average smallholder farmer either, he had effectively set up a demonstration plot showing us the effect of two years of continuous use, compared to one year only, compared to none at all. Kadewere no longer needs the expensive chemical fertilizers which are virtually essential elsewhere. And in case you don’t know, the crop shown here, after two years of manure use, is outstanding by any measure.
Milk tester, told us how she has benefitted from the plant.
“I want to build my own house. I won’t be able to do it this year or even next, but perhaps by 2011.” Maria Jereman has only been working at Mwera Mkaka dairy processing plant for a year but has no doubt that this is the best job she has had. Maria is employed as a milk tester by the dairy cooperative which SSLLP helped to establish. Twice a day, smallholder farmers bring in the milk from cows around Mwera, a small village in the hilly and beautiful Ntchisi District of Malawi. Maria is the first person they deal with. She tests their milk before it is accepted for purchase by the cooperative which runs the processing plant.
Previously, Maria was a clerk working for a civil engineering company on road construction. Although that at least gave Maria an income, it involved continual travel from one place to another; not the ideal for a 26 year old single mother whose child was just starting school. Maria no longer worries about her future