George Mwika Kayange | November 12, 2012
When Mrs. Meclina Kadzuwa realized that support from Malawi’s Farm Input Subsidy Program was unreliable, she switched to using cow dung in her fields. As a result, she has enjoyed bumper yields of maize on her five-acre plot.
Mrs. Kadzuwa is a mother of four children from Nankhweu village in Dedza district. Apart from growing maize, she also keeps dairy cows. This integrated system serves her well. Her three cows produce 42 litres of milk per day, from which she earns a profit of 130 US Dollars per month.
But Mrs. Kadzuwa is frustrated by the difficulties she faces in maintaining her dairy business. She is losing money because of recent price increases for feed and other inputs. She explains: “We have been offered only 22 cents per litre by our buyers for five years now. Yet prices of feeds, dairy mash, medication, and artificial insemination have increased so many times within the same period. Maybe it is high time government came in to protect us.”
Mrs. Kadzuwa belongs to a dairy co-operative, Chitsanzo Milk Bulking Group. The co-op has been selling milk to the same buyer for years. Despite the fact that the government removed a tax on milk in February of this year, Mrs. Kadzuwa complains that the co-operative is still unable to bargain on prices, and so the co-operative members lose out.
Fred Mlangali is the chairperson of the co-operative, and agrees with Mrs. Kadzuwa. He says that although the co-operative has increased its membership from 10 to 300 farmers between 1979 and 2012, its leadership is still powerless to negotiate with their monopolistic buyer. He explains: “We have met the management of the Lilongwe Dairies Limited on a number of occasions to consider adjusting upwards the price that they impose on us, but to no avail.” Now he is appealing to the government for help.
Asif Karim is the Managing Director of Lilongwe Dairies Limited. He says his company has tried its best by increasing the price it offers to the farmers. He says. “We currently offer the highest price of milk in Malawi. On top of that, we have also been providing co-operative members with … interest-free loans to purchase cows, feeds, and fertilizer for their maize gardens.” This month, the dairy expects to provide co-op members with loans to buy fertilizer. Yet the farmers feel the price they are being offered is not enough.
Despite these challenges, Mrs. Kadzuwa is a model of how small-scale farmers can become self-reliant by using cattle manure. Mrs. Kadzuwa no longer depends on government subsidies. She says: “I can send my kids to good schools and feed my family well because I am able to realize good yields even without Farm Input Subsidy Programme fertilizer. Through both maize and dairy farming, I was able to buy a motor bike and build a brick house.”