SVTP intensifies agriculture commercialization drive, 5 cooperatives registered

Saulo: We should stop doing business as usual

Mary Saulo, a 48-year-old farmer from Chikhomo Village, is a member of the newly established Chingalumba Producers and Marketing Cooperative in TA Kasisi in Chikwawa. She beams with excitement at the mention of large-scale commercial farming through the SVTP. Destructive impacts of climate change like drought, floods and shifting weather patterns have affected farming in the Shire Valley leading to poverty and hunger.

“We are feeling the pinch of climate change. We are faced with floods or drought every year making it difficult to do profitable farming. The world is changing. We should stop doing business as usual and start embracing new ways of farming. The SVTP irrigation scheme under construction will open doors to economic freedom for us as we will be able to cultivate crops at least twice a year,” she said.

Five out of the 14 targeted irrigation blocks in Phase 1 of the SVTP have been registered as cooperatives at the Registrar of Cooperative Societies in the Ministry of Trade and Industry. These cooperatives are Kambadwe, Mantchombe, Mwanaalirenji, Mulambe and Chingalumba Producers and Marketing Cooperative. The irrigation blocks will consolidate land into 14 commercial farms measuring between 500 to 1600 hectares in the Phase 1 area of the project.  

โ€œOur vision is to profit from commercial farming like our counterparts at Phata. In my view, transformation means becoming financially independent and being able to provide food for my family. This project will transform our lives, our children and generations to come,” added Saulo.

Before registration, the Programme conducted five-day Cooperative Member Education training for the five irrigation blocks in collaboration with the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Chikwawa District Council attended by 2,940 landowners.   

Moyo: The training was beneficial

โ€œThe training is beneficial to us as prospective commercial farmers. We have learnt about the roles of a cooperative, how to manage a cooperative and the importance of developing business plans for the farming venture,โ€ said Nota Moyo of Nyamphota Village, TA Katunga in Chikwawa.

The cooperatives elected interim Board of Directors and six sub-committees for each of the five blocks. The Ministry of Trade and Industry trained 60 members from these five boards in bye-law formulation. 2,755 landowners in 27 established business centres under the five cooperatives (1929 women and 826 men) reviewed the formulated bye-laws. Business centres provide opportunities for villages under the cooperatives to discuss issues in detail before general assembly meetings. 2,720 landowners (1686 female, 1034 male) approved the bye-laws during five general assembly meetings before submission to the Registrar of Cooperative Societies for registration of the cooperatives.   Officials from the Ministry of Trade and Industry provided backstopping support in the bye-law formulation process to ensure that the bye-laws are in line with the Law before submitting documentation for registration. Board of Directors and sub-committees have since been elected and trained for these cooperatives. 

Chimpesa: We provide backstopping support

Henry Chimpesa, Cooperatives Auditor at the Ministry of Trade and Industry, explains the role of the Ministry in the process: โ€œOur role as the Ministry is to support the cooperatives develop bye-laws in line with the Cooperative Societies Act. Leaders of the Cooperative and the general assembly must meet to review the bye-laws before registration with the Registrar of Cooperative Societies. Cooperative Societies Act no. 36 of 1998 has given the power to the general assembly to make decisions for the cooperative.”

The project will engage the last nine irrigation blocks to discuss the choice of business entity for operating their farming business, once the Ministry of Lands provide the final list of landowners in the adjudicated and demarcated land parcels in the nine blocks. The blocks can choose to operate as either cooperatives, limited companies, farmer clubs or associations. Depending on the choice of entity, the project will conduct customized trainings and facilitate the registration of the entities.

For the first five irrigation blocks,the Programme in collaboration with theMinistry of Trade and Industry, Ministry of Lands and the Chikwawa District Council conducted 44 meetings with 2,366 landowners (1,273 female and 1,093 male) to provide information on the choice of entities. Landowners in the five blocks opted to register their farming business as cooperatives.  

All the business entities registered through the SVTP will select a farm enterprise to undertake. Potential enterprises are crops, livestock and fisheries. 45 engagement meetings were conducted with 4,188 livestock farmers in Chikwawa (2529 male, 1659 female) as part of awareness raising on choice of farm enterprises.  Farmers are hopeful that adequate capacity development and collaboration will transform the agriculture sector in the Shire Valley.