Hello there! My name is Lovemore Mtsitsi, a 28-year-old agribusiness specialist from Malawi. As a zealous young agripreneur, I am passionate about initiating and promoting innovative and sustainable economic development agendas driven by social innovation.
Meanwhile, I am working for a consortium of practical action—Hivos, Environment Africa and Churches Action in Relief and Development (CARD)—as a Markets and Business Development Officer for the Sustainable Energy for Rural Communities (SE4RC) project, Chikwawa, Malawi.
At all times, I follow, with keen interest, the economic development trends of my country. Through such interest, I have noted that, Malawi’s economic development aspirations are guided by her overarching medium term strategy: the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy II (MGDS II).
The philosophy of the MGDS II revolves around transforming the country’s economy from the current predominantly importing and consuming economy to a predominantly producing and exporting economy. Adopting this philosophy coupled with hard work, unity and a strong zeal, I believe that the country can manage to harness the few available resources and accelerate poverty reduction in the country.
As one way of reducing her import bill, I am convinced that Malawi can do away with importation of other goods and services, which can be produced locally at a lower cost. With relevant value addition activities and adherence to high quality standards, it is even possible for the rural poor masses to break through into the international market and contribute to the exporting philosophy of the MGDS II.
Among the goods that are imported but can be produced locally are edible oils. Importation of these oils is still relatively high with 18,372 tonnes of crude and refined oil being formally imported into Malawi in 2012 alone.
Oilseed crops in Malawi are useful both for food and cash. However, the present production levels of edible oils in Malawi, at 25,000 tonnes, is not satisfying the existing demand, currently at 53,000 Metric Tonnes, hence necessitating importation.
Improving production of these oilseeds in the country has the potential of significantly reducing the need for importation hence contributing to the MGDS II. The major oilseed crops grown in Malawi are Sunflower and Sesame in addition to soybean, groundnuts, and cotton.
Sunflower oil is one of the top-quality edible oils and its cake is used in production of stock feed. However, small-scale sunflower oil production in Malawi is still in its infancy and the demand for Sunflower oil is not satiated.
Looking at this enormous available potential, this business project is being proposed to take advantage of this untapped potential while contributing to the national goals of the country. The Malawi Oilseeds Sector Transformation (MOST) programme being implemented in Malawi has reiterated that both domestic and international market opportunities for the sunflower sector are sprouting. This is despite the fact that the sunflower sector is heavily under exploited.
Through this business project, I intend to establish a sunflower oil processing plant in my community. The plant will provide processing services to the local community whereby, at a small cost, the community will bring their sunflower for processing.
Once processed, the individual accessing the processing service will get the oil while I will retain the seed cake. In turn, I will liaise with both domestic and commercial livestock feed manufacturers within the vicinity of my community for them to be buying my seed cake. At the outset, I will provide this service on an individual basis where individual farmers will be bringing their sunflower for processing as individuals.
In the long run, however, some of the profits generated from the business will be ploughed back into the community by facilitating the establishment of a cooperative. Using these funds, I will train the community in group dynamics and business management.
Then, I plan to revamp already existing farmer groups and assist them through all the processes of forming a marketing cooperative. Once operational, the cooperative will be assisted by my business to establish a sunflower oil business where they will, in collaboration with my business, be processing their sunflower oil for sale in the local community and beyond.
The community will benefit from their sunflower oil sales, thus improving their income levels. In addition, local production of sunflower oil is envisaged to boost the nutritional status of the local community, owing to the ease of availability of these edible oils. On the other hand, my business will profit through the seed cake sales and the processing fees paid by the cooperative.
I believe that, with support from the Malawi Bureau of Standards (MBS) and adherence to high quality standards during processing, the sunflower oil produced by the cooperative can be certified, in the long run. Once certified, the business with the assistance of the Ministry of Trade, both at the local government and national levels, can further add value to the oil by packaging and labelling it attractively and nicely making it highly competitive and ready for the international market.
We note, therefore, that, with smooth implementation, this business project has the potential to provide a marketing outlet for the helpless rural farmers and reduce their post-harvest losses. In addition, the business project will reduce imports and promote exports of edible oils thus contributing to the MGDS II.
What is more, the business project would employ four people at the outset, with possible additional employment opportunities as the business grows, thus contributing to employment levels in the community.
With this project, people in my community can graduate from being paupers and destitute into great and developed members of the society.
As said, this business project is stimulated by the desire to contribute to the Malawi government’s drive to spur agricultural processing and promote exports. Additionally, according to the MOST programme, the benefits of promoting the Sunflower industry in Malawi are apparent.
Thus far, we note that sunflower processing has the potential to: ease rural poverty, widen the national export base, and provide raw materials for livestock feed production. It also provides low-cost rural access to vegetable fat thereby offering a source of an alternative nutritional value for a healthy nation.
Over and above that, sunflower processing provides an avenue for community and national economic growth. Fortunately enough for Malawian smallholder farmers and this business project, sunflower production is feasible in most regions of the country and is well suited for smallholder production owing to its straightforward requirements and a few necessary inputs.
Measurable success factors
The success of this business project will be measured through:
- Number of people processing sunflower oil at the processing plant
- Amount of oil processed at the plant per month
- Amount of seed cake produced by the plant
- Changes in income levels of community members accessing the service
Budget: I intend to use the USD 5,000 grant as follows:
- Preparatory meetings (April–July) USD 100
- Procurement and Installation of plant and working capital (August–November) USD 4,200
- Promotional activities of the business project (On-going) USD 100
- Staff training in plant and business operations (November–January) USD 150
- Wages for four staff for three months (February–April) USD 350
Blogpost and picture submitted by Lovemore Mtsitsi (Malawi): lovemtsitsi[at]gmail.com
The content, structure and grammar are at the discretion of the author only.
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