A field officer for BERL Given Phiri told journalists in Lilongwe that his company is working with the rural livelihood enhancement program (RLEEP) to encourage farmers to plant cash crops that are easy to manage and improve their livelihoods.
“We realized that if farmers are well organized and given all necessary farming techniques they can produce for our industry, that’s why we partnered with RLEEP in this project,” said Phiri.
He said at the moment BERL has introduced heavy plant machinery that is producing cooking oil and will need more raw materials like sunflower and soya beans.
Gift Banda a 34 year old farmer at Tafika club in Khomelanjuchi village T/A Kabudula in Lilongwe has been growing tobacco for over five years but says he has never made money like what he made last growing season 2014/15. Banda who is now in Sunflower farming fetched over half a million kwacha last year on a 5 acres land with sunflower.
“I sold my sunflower to a vendor last season but it was profitable compared to what I used to get from tobacco farming, with a ready market that BERL has promised am confident to make more money this season,” said a jovial Banda when visited by journalists at his home.
He said growing tobacco is very involving starting from preparing the nursery up to the time it is ready for sale. “With sunflower we only prepare the garden and wait for the rains to come, no fertilizer is applied making it cheaper to produce.” He added.
Banda said last year he managed to roof his house with iron sheets, bought a bicycle and paid school fees for his kids plus buying school uniform.
Margaret Nkhoma of T/A Kalolo in Lilongwe has just started planting sunflower this year, she said from the advice she is getting from BERL there is hope that she will harvest more and make money.
Nkhoma confessed that she did not use any money for inputs in this new farming and labour has been minimized.
The Rural livelihood enhancement program is funded by the International Fund for Agricultural development (IFAD), the program that has been earmarked to increase farmer’s wealth and knowledge in new farming techniques.