Who we are
Catherine Mloza Banda, 25, a Rural Development and Extension graduate of Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR), currently working as Agricultural Value Chain Officer with Farm Radio Trust Malawi.
Tamanda Chabvuta, 26, an Arts Humanities graduate from University of Malawi Chancellor College and currently working as Communications Officer with the National Smallholder Farmers’ Association of Malawi.
We hold a passion for information and communications technology (ICT) in agriculture, rural development, and youth.
To set up YO-FARM.
A farm for out-of-school youth that will train and mould young boys and girls to become agricultural entrepreneurs.
Through Yo-Farm, youth will find piecework during their free time thereby allowing them earn an income that they may use for school fees or other costs of living.
The Youth Farm will mainly focus on legumes, vegetables, and maize.
We will facilitate accessing markets for these crops and coordinate all transactions with an objective of generating income.
The long-term vision is to process and package the harvest to reach out to a wider market and increase profits through sales.
Resource Centre for the youth
Through this farm, we will build a resource centre that will serve as capacity building space and meeting space.
The resource centre will source agricultural information including ICT for Agriculture resources for the youth and allow them make use of the studying space.
We will hold activities such as ‘weekend schools’ where the young people will interact with mentors from all backgrounds thereby widening their visions and career choice.
The Farm will also focus on climate smart agriculture technologies such as rainwater harvesting, using organic manure and other modern farming technologies that will allow conservation of natural resources.
Who benefits from Yo-Farm?
The Yo-Farm project aims to benefit the lives of the youth who will work on the farm allowing them have a means of income.
As some of the youth come from child headed households, they will be able to provide for their families.
The resource centre and other mentoring opportunities are bound to increase the young people’s ambitions as they will focus on exploring farming as a means of income but also expose them to other career prospects that are out there therefore allowing them have a chance to go back to school.
The use and application of ICT and modern farming technologies will educate these youth and allow them to apply the skills in their own fields.
Why support Yo-Farm?
Malawi is vulnerable to effects of climate change due to its high dependence on rain-fed agriculture.
Reports state that climate change will continue to have an impact on agricultural production where in the seasonally dry tropics, crop yields will fall causing hunger, poverty and more pressure on natural resources.
During the current farming season, Malawi has faced the most unpredictable rainfall patterns due to the effects of El Niño.
Over 2.8 million people are at risk of hunger and will continue to be due to the low yields estimated for this year. This in turn affects the poverty levels in most rural households where a lot of youth struggle to stay in school due to lack of school fees.
Less than 60 % of households can earn enough money in a month to keep a child in school for one term where the cost for tuition is a minimal of MK 12,000 (USD 21) per term.
Such realities compel us to centre more efforts that will help young people stay in school by allowing them earn income to pay fees and allow them realise their future either in agriculture entrepreneurship or in other careers.
We will first start with setting up the farm. Sensitization about the farm will made through a local secondary school near the area. Through this school, we will have access to records of students who may have dropped out of school due to lack of school fees. The opportunity will prioritise the youth identified.
Based on availability, youth willing to work on the farm will take full ownership of the farm labour and in cases of few work force, available; other employed labourers may take part.
Crops to cultivate will be maize, beans, different types of vegetables and soya using climate smart agriculture technologies.
We will also apply irrigation methods as planting season will be in the colds dry season. While this is underway, we will work on construction of the resource centre and commence weekend schools during selected weekends for the youth.
The projection is that construction of the resource centre be complete by the time the first harvest is ready for sale. This should take approximately one year.
So far, identification of land in Lilongwe in Mitundu area is complete and ready for purchase at a price of USD 1,000. This area is strategic considering that it is close to our national agricultural university, Lilongwe University of Agricultural and Natural Resources. We plan to garner the support of students from the University to conduct the weekend schools for the youth and to serve as mentors.
We have informed the local authorities in the area of the project. What is left is to complete purchasing of the land for the project to make headway.
We will measure success for the project through the number of young people indicating to have increased their income through their participation in the project, the number of youth going back to school, and through profits made from crop sales, which will allow for expansion and increase in farm activities way beyond the first year of implementation.
Costs and line-up of activities
- Between April and May we plan to conduct awareness meetings in the local area and market research and establishment which will cost a total of USD 600.
- In May we will be setting up the farm/preparing land and purchasing inputs and irrigation equipment, which will cost USD 1,200.
- From June 2016 to January 2017, we be coordinating all processes of crop production on the farm which will involve labour costing USD 1,000.
- While crop production is underway, between July to December, we will be constructing and setting up the youth resource centre costing USD 1,500.
- From the commencement of farm activities in July, we will hold weekend schools thereby requiring logistical arrangements at a cost of USD 500.
Yo-Farm for the youth, for the future of food and Agriculture in Malawi!
Blogpost and picture submitted by Tamanda Chabvuta (Malawi): etchabvuta[at]gmail.com
The content, structure and grammar are at the discretion of the author only.
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