It’s a bright Wednesday morning and Phillip Msakwiza is busy supervising construction work for his new house. He is using the proceeds from groundnut farming to build the house, something he couldn’t easily manage before joining a farmers’ club.
This year, Mr. Msakwiza harvested a bumper yield of groundnut—about 1,200 kilograms. He says this was possible because of the knowledge and advice he gets from his farmers’ club.
He explains: “Before I joined this club, I did not know which varieties were suitable for my area and I used to grow Chalimbana, a local variety which is low-yielding and late-maturing. I was also planting groundnuts on a single row per ridge with no proper spacing between planting stations and ridges.”
Mr. Msakwiza lives in Tandwe village in Ntchisi district, about 50 kilometres north of Lilongwe, the capital city of Malawi. He has been the chairperson of Mdumpha Farmers’ Club since its inception in October 2010. The club is part of the Langa Co-operative and includes 10 women and six men.
He says there are many benefits to joining a farmers’ club compared to growing and selling crops individually. For example, in a club, it’s easy to access extension services and technical support from agricultural experts.
Through the club, he learned how to grow suitable varieties of groundnuts that get good yields. Mr. Msakwiza says agricultural experts advised the group members that the CG7 variety is suitable for the area because it is early-maturing and high-yielding.
He says experts also advised them to plant their groundnuts in two rows per ridge to increase their yield.
He was also advised on correct plant spacing for groundnuts: 75 centimetres between ridges and 15 centimetres between planting stations, with the planting holes 10 centimetres deep.
To become a member of the club, a farmer must grow either groundnuts, soya beans, or both. The farmer should also be interested in joining the village savings and loans group which is operated by the club.
Alice Kawaye joined Mdumpha Farmers’ Club in 2015. She was inspired by other members who were selling their groundnuts at higher prices than her.
Mrs. Kawaye says, “I now make more money from groundnuts since I joined the club. I have acquired a number of assets at my household because I sell my groundnuts at better prices.”
She says it’s easy for farmers to establish prices when selling through the club. Mrs. Kawaye adds, “As a group, we are able to set the prices we want. This cannot happen when you are selling as an individual as most often it is the buyer who determines the price.”
She says that buyers prefer to buy from clubs because it takes less time and eases the burden of moving around searching for the commodity.
The club meets twice a month to share knowledge and ideas on how to best improve their groundnut farming and to save and invest money in the club’s savings and loans scheme.
Japhet Zingani is the agribusiness officer for Ntchisi district. He says that there is high demand for groundnuts from both local and international buyers and that the only way farmers can meet the demand is through collective marketing through a club, association, or co-operative.
Mr. Zingani says he encourages district farmers to work together from production to marketing and to adhere to quality standards and quantity targets to meet market demand.
He explains: “The farmers are linked to buyers and they participate in various marketing platforms. We also build the capacity of the farmers in clubs on farm business management, marketing and market research, and value addition.”
Mr. Msakwiza says he has seen a big difference in prices since he starting selling groundnuts through the club—and that is why he is now building a better house. He says: “I have benefited a lot from growing and selling groundnuts through [the] farmers’ club. While individual farmers are selling groundnuts at a price less than 400 Malawi kwacha per kilogram (about half a US dollar), I and my fellow club members have sold at prices above that.”