Supporting women farmers is central to the work that Self Help Africa is doing to eradicate hunger and poverty in sub-Saharan Africa.The Mtukula Agricultural Enterprise Fund (MAEF) was established in 2012, with the express objective of promoting and supporting agri-businesses that could generate extra income for women in Southern Africa. Launched in Malawi and Zambia, the fund received more than 130 proposals in response to an initial call for submissions, before selecting four innovative business ideas for piloting, last year.
Designed to support enterprising new business projects in rural Malawi and Zambia, the fund has at it’s heart people – more than 1,200 women farmers – who are involved in the projects and are working to produce more and earn more from their work. Mtukula Fund derives its names from a southern African word that describes an action to stimulate household wellbeing. It is fitting therefore that the focus is on African women, whom numerous studies have shown are most committed to investing their earnings in the home and welfare of family.
The fund currently supports a fish-farming project that’s assisting close to a 100 women with cage fishing on Lake Kariba in southern Zambia, a scheme that is designed to support 600 women to earn more by adding-value to their banana production in Nyimba in the east of the country, a project that is assisting 300 Malawian women with mango production near Salima, Malawi, and a venture that is helping 200 women in producer groups in Dowa District of Malawi’s Central Region with the production of poultry and vegetables.
Women like Banana grower and mother of eleven Christine Mwale in Kacholola, Zambia, fisherwoman Agnes Ngosa from Kamimbi village, Zambia, Mango farmer Mai Bibi, from Khombedza area of Salima District, and 25-year- old poultry farmer Aless Willy from Mpango village in Balaka District, Malawi.
For Aless, participation in a poultry production project supported by the MAEF Fund has allowed her to buy maize for home use, and a bicycle that she uses to travel to the local market to sell her chickens and eggs. “I have been working at this for the last year. I started out with 20 chickens and now have more than 100.” Last month Aless earned €150 from the sale of chickens and eggs in the local market.
Mai Bibi in Salima District, Malawi says that villagers are very encouraged by the success of a project that has allowed them to graft good quality mango scions (cuttings) on to low-yielding local trees. The head-woman of her village, Mai Bibi says that once they start harvesting the new, more fruitful mangos being produced on the grafted trees they will store them collectively in the village, allowing for easier transportation, and have negotiated a market for the fruit with Salima-based ‘Malawi Mango’ who in turn have forged links for their juice and pulp with a number of major domestic and international buyers.
Mother-of-three Agnes Ngosa is the chair of Buyantashi fishing group in Kamimbi village on the shores of Lake Kariba. In an area where almost every household supplements its farming income by fishing the cage fishing enterprise established by Agnes and the dozen women who work with her in cage fish farming promises to provide a valuable source of income for members. Although the group’s recent first harvest fell far short of expectations – Agnes accepts that they are on a learning curve, and says that they are reasonably confident that lower than expected yields – the result of the loss of some fish from cages, and lower than expected body weight of harvested stock – will allow them to return more strongly, next year. ‘We earned money from the harvest but not as much as we had all hoped’, says Agnes. “We did make more money than we would however, had we just been selling the fish that our husbands had caught with their lines on the lake,” she added.
At Nyimba District in Zambia’s Eastern Province, Christine Mwale is one of 600 women farmers who are being trained to supply good quality banana to a drying facility being established by Nyimba District Farmers Association, of which she is a member. Farmer-producers like Christine, who has a two acres plantation of banana that she tends an hour’s walk from her home in Kacholola village, have received training in the care and maintenance of their banana crops, and will start supplying this Autumn to the plant that has been constructed by in Nyimba town.
Farmers like Christine are being joined by more than 50 street traders in banana in Nyimba, and will each receive shares in the banana processing operation – which will see the fruit being solar dried, bagged, labeled and sold to a Lusaka based company with international markets for the sale of dried fruit.
For further details about Self Help Africa’s Mtukula Agricultural Enterprise Fund visit: www.mtukulafund.org for more information.