Mchinji farmers resort to dairy farming as Tobacco gains dwindle
Over 200 Malawian smallholder tobacco farmers, from Traditional Authority (T/A) Simphasi in Mchinji district, have resorted to dairy farming as an alternative to tobacco which is gradually losing its economic value in the country due to, among others, an increasing worldwide anti-smoking lobby.
Tobacco has been Malawi’s main cash crop and forex earner for many years.
The continuing reduction of volume and price of the country’s “green gold” are indeed worrying farmers and stakeholders, prompting some of them to start planning about a future when the crop will not matter anymore.
The T/A Simphasi farmers have formed a cooperative known as Chioshya Milk Bulking Group which is being governed by Central Region Milk Producers Association (CREMPA) and supported by Foundation for a Smoke-Free World through Agricultural Transformation Initiative (ATI).
Every member of the group was given a cow from which he or she is supposed to sulk milk for sell to earn some money.
Speaking Monday when officials from the foundation, ATI and CREMPA visited the cooperative, one of the members, Robert Phiri, commended the initiative, emphasizing that it is the way to go in the face of dwindling tobacco gains.
“After all, tobacco is too involving. And inputs such as fertilizer are very expensive unlike in dairy farming where we use locally available inputs,” he said.
Phiri sulks at least 18 litres of milk from his cow everyday that he sells at 180 kwacha per litre, making about 3, 200 kwacha a day.
Currently, only 81 cows in the entire Chioshya Milk Bulking Group produce milk as the others are still developing.
According to CREMPA General Manager Charles Nhlovu, these 81 cows produce 500 litres of milk everyday which, he said, is too small for the readily available market.
“There are dairy companies such as Lilongwe Dairy, Malawi Dairy Industry and Capital Dairy that have the capacity to process 150,000 litres of milk per day. So I urge you farmers to work very hard and produce thousands of litres of milk,” stressed Nhlovu.
ATI and the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World aim to identify viable economic alternatives for smallholder tobacco farmers and invest in alternate profitable market opportuities and improving global health by ending smoking in this generation.
The two organisations have provided $50, 000 to Chioshya Milk Bulking Group out of which 18 million kwacha was given to the cooperative on Monday through CREMPA.
“We expect this money to, among others, help the group increase their herd and purchase improved breeding material to improve herd resilience and productivity,” revealed Candida Nankhumwa, ATI Country Director.
According to Nankhumwa and President of Foundation for a Smoke-Free World Dr Derek Yach, diversifying an economy as important as tobacco is not as simple as switching to another crop.
The two said they would work with various stakeholders in creating a new set of economic drivers and build a case for the structured investments required to make the switch a reality.