UN agencies join up support to link smallholder farmers to viable markets

The UN is helping farmers like these to access markets for their produce.
The UN is helping farmers like these to access markets for their produce.

Three United Nations (UN) agencies in Malawi – the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) – United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women (UN Women) and World Food Programme (WFP) – teamed up to expose smallholder farmers to potential markets and link them with other agriculture market value-chain players at the 14th National Agriculture Fair held in August in Blantyre.

The UN agencies joined forces under the “Delivering As One” approach to maximize impact of UN programming on the ground within the framework of the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) for Malawi (2012-2016), which has been extended to 2018 to allow a successor development blue-print.

With the theme Unleashing Full Agriculture Potential: Role of Markets, the UN brought together farmers from Rumphi, Mzimba, Balaka, Zomba Mulanje and Salima to share experiences and knowledge on sustainable agriculture production and marketing with the overall aim of ending hunger. The grassroots organizations also exhibited how they are working with the United Nations through various projects to attain income, food and nutrition security.

Fifty-two year old Lucia Mseteka from Kampoti village, Traditional Authority Khosolo in Mzimba a member of Lupanda Cooperative, says that her participation at the agriculture fair has opened new windows to markets. Lucia owns five hectares of land on which she grows beans, maize and tobacco; and keeps dairy cattle.

“I have benefited a lot from the cooperative including easy access to quality seeds, sharing of ideas on grain processing, improving quality of my produce, and access to markets,” she explains. “Through the Agriculture Fair, I have learnt from my fellow farmers on how to better package my products and how other cooperatives are managed. I have also made contacts with potential buyers for my products. I will, thus, share what I have learnt here with fellow members of Lupanda Cooperative,” says Lucia.

Before joining the cooperative, Lucia and her husband were struggling to access quality seeds, harvest enough food for their family and pay fees for their five children. But now, the family boasts of owning a decent house, four dairy cows, a motorbike and three bicycles; and three of their five children have completed schooling and are in employment.

She adds, “I am here by virtue of being a member of Lupanda Cooperative and I am thankful to the United Nations and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for facilitating establishment of our cooperative. My family would have remained income, food and nutrition insecure if I did not join the cooperative.”

The trade Fair did not only provide the farmers the opportunity to sell their produce but also a platform for them to interact amongst themselves on how best they can advance farming and the different methods/approaches and technologies to use to produce better quality products that are competitive on the market.

Every year, the United Nations supports selected farmers to showcase their commodities and products at the National Agriculture Fair, which is organized by the Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development.

This year’s National Agriculture Fair, pooling over 90 exhibitors, was graced by President Peter Mutharika as guest of honour. Speaking when he opened the fair, the president called for serious investment in the agriculture sector if the country is to turn from a producing to an exporting country.

The UN in Malawi supports smallholder farmers from across the country to expose them to viable agricultural markets, link them to potential buyers and provide them with a platform for peer learning and knowledge exchange with fellow farmers, agro-processors and input suppliers within the framework of the 2030 sustainable Development Goals, particularly SDG2 on Zero Hunger, and Africa’s Commitment to End Hunger by 2025 as espoused by the Malabo Declaration of 2014.