Mark Ndipita | June 22, 2015
For many years, Mailosi Mwachilolo searched for a more profitable crop. The market prices of the crops he grew were unreliable. Mr. Mwachilolo says, “I used to grow maize, groundnuts and sweet potatoes but … I was disappointed with the low prices … which kept changing year after year.”
Mr. Mwachilolo lives in the village of Mthiko, about 45 kilometres south of Malawi’s capital city, Lilongwe. In 2010 he met an extension worker who introduced him to paprika. He explains, “I learned … that paprika is a good farming enterprise because it has a stable market—prices do not go down each year … [like] other crops.”
Mr. Mwachilolo started growing paprika on a half-hectare plot. After seeing the benefits, he increased his acreage. He explains, “This crop does not disappoint me when I go to the market. I have now increased the area for cultivating paprika to over a hectare.”
After his 2014 harvest, Mr. Mwachilolo sold 350 kilograms of paprika at $2 U.S. per kilogram. This year, Mr. Mwachilolo expects to harvest five tonnes, which he expects to sell for as much as $2.40 U.S. per kilogram.
Kilioni Lapuyele grows paprika in the nearby village of Mng’ona. He says paprika is very much like growing other crops. He explains: “We apply fertilizer twice and we make sure that we plant with the first rains. The paprika that we grow is not hot, and … we can use our hands to harvest without burning our fingers.”
Mr. Lapuyele harvests the seed pods from the paprika plants. He explains: “Paprika is ready for harvest when the pods turn from green to red. Soon after harvest, we dry them on a raised mat before taking them to the market.”
Winston Mtambe is the local extension worker. He says that, although paprika fetches better prices than other crops, there are a few challenges. Mr. Mtambe explains: “Paprika requires enough water to do well, so good rains are important. In addition, the crop sometimes is attacked by leaf blight diseases and farmers are advised to buy chemicals and spray.”
According to Mr. Mtambe, if farmers take good care of their paprika plants and apply fertilizer, one plant will produce about 50-60 pods and they will make good profits.
Mr. Mtambe trained Mr. Mwachilolo to maximize his earnings by properly grading his harvest before taking it to the market. Mr. Mwachilolo says: “We … sort our paprika into grades A and B. Grade A fetches higher prices—grade B might sell for half the price of grade A. If the two grades are mixed up, the farmer may lose out at the market.”
Mr. Mwachilolo’s family has benefitted greatly since he started growing paprika. He can pay for his three children to attend secondary schools. He says, “I have also bought three cows which [produce] milk for sale and home consumption. After selling my paprika this year, I want to start building a good house.”
Photo credit: USAID Africa Bureau