My name is Wisdom Bwanali and I am 28 years old. I have a Bachelor of Science Degree in Land Management (Physical Planning) which I obtained from Mzuzu University in 2014.
I come from an agricultural family that is based in the border district of Mchinji, Malawi. The art of farming is one of the survival concepts that I learnt and practiced since I was 6 years old. Memories are still afresh of my late mother buying me a small hole and allocating me a small plot to plant my own maize.
Since I was very young, and probably before I was born some 28 years ago, our family farming has mainly been practiced on a subsistence level. In simple terms, we grow crops for food. I have come to realise, however, that my family has not benefited a lot from this faming activity, although my grandfather would be quick to argue that it was the same money he used to have go to the university.
This is true, but I feel that my family should have benefited more, for which I think the element of entrepreneurship was missing, in spite of the available land and resources.
After I finished my university studies, I did not get employed straight away. I stayed at home for two years. I had to do some odd jobs to support myself and from these savings, I opened up a farm on my family land.
In the 2014/2015 farming season I cultivated soya beans on a one-acre plot and harvested seven 50 kg bags. In the current 2015/2016 farming season I have cultivated soya beans on four acres of land and the signs for the harvest are good. I have plans to expand my farming activities on a larger scale in the 2016/2017 season.
I have, therefore, grown an interest and developed myself in soya cultivation. I am still not satisfied as my cultivation is on a small-scale basis and the profits are not much due to lack of proper markets.
You may be interested to know that in Malawi, soya cultivation has grown greatly as it can be sold at a good price with minimum inputs as compared to other crops. According to Kananji et al. (2013), the national production of soya beans over 10 years in Malawi has been growing at about at 4.6 % per year.
It has been estimated that there is an aggregate domestic demand of soya beans of 400,000 metric tonnes, which excludes potential export markets. It is against this background that I got motivated with the idea of soya seed multiplication so that I can exploit the available market and also to create jobs in my community.
In Mchinji, we have an agricultural extension office for Agricultural Research and Extension Trust (ARET). I contacted the local ARET office and found that the organisation has been advocating the idea of seed multiplication among smallholder farmers. I also found out that ARET has been promoting the concept of contract farming, where a supplier makes an agreement with a potential buyer.
What one has to do is just to register with ARET and you become their client. You agree on how much quantity you will produce and selling prices. ARET acts as a middleman to link you up to potential buyers. They also have extension workers who train and monitor you on the best practices to grow soya beans up to the stage of harvesting and sorting. Once you have produced good seed (after laboratory testing) you are certified as a seed supplier.
My main aim is to multiply certified soya seed to sell to seed companies, so that they could make more good quality seed available to soya producers. In the long run, the project will also incorporate local farmers in the seed multiplication industry to meet the expected increased demand. The following steps will be undertaken in order for this project to materialise:
- Register with Agricultural Research and Extension Trust;
- Contract agreement with potential buyer;
- Land lease (rent);
- Input procurement;
- Labour recruitment;
- Actual cultivation (harvesting, sorting, storing);
- Project monitoring;
- Supplying; and
- Project evaluation
At the local rate of $1 to MK713, the $5000 grant translates to MK3,56,500. Once I get the grant, most of the funds will be spent on registration with ARET (MK250,000), Seed Inspectors (300,000), land lease (MK120,000), labour (MK540,000), transportation (MK200,000), and purchasing of farm inputs (MK500,000), and running costs (MK200,000).
At the expected output of seven tonnes and selling price of MK800, I expect to earn MK5,760,000 with a projected profit of MK2,110,000. This project will run from August 2016 to August 2017.
I would measure my success in this project based on the following criteria:
Profit. Every business is done to make profit, and using this criterion I would know that I am benefiting from my business.
A growing customer base. When a large number of people seek your services it is just a sign that there is more demand for your products, which would translate to growth of my business.
Customer satisfaction. When buyers are not complaining with the standard of products you are supplying it means that the reputation of the business would grow, which would attract more customers.
Employee satisfaction. This is the core of any business and a happy customer means more production and more success.
Owner satisfaction. Lastly, you cannot continue doing something that you are not enjoying, and if the owner of a business is satisfied, it means that the objectives of the business are being fulfilled.
Blogpost and picture submitted by Wisdom Bwanali (Malawi) – wisdombwanali[at]gmail.com
The content, structure and grammar is at the discretion of the author only.
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