Stop Food Waste. Start Making Profit.

Special Interests:Agriculture,Food Waste
World Food Programme
October 4, 2019
Photo: WFP/Badre Bahaji

Lack of skills to handle and store harvested crops is one of the biggest challenges Malawian small-scale farmers face. A third of their hard-earned crops is regularly lost to rodents, weevils and rotting within a few months after harvesting. Imagine what one farmer could do if all that food was preserved. Now imagine what it would mean if this happened with the millions of food-insecure farmers across Africa.

For members of the Gwiritse Cooperative in the Lilongwe district of Malawi, post-harvest losses are now history.

Timothy Katumbu, 60, and his wife Alice, from Mchoka village, used to keep their produce in a locally-made granary and would lose part of that to rodents. He also struggled to find buyers for his produce, as the quality was damaged by poor storage conditions. Following the construction of a warehouse in his area, he has had a safe place to store his crops since 2016.

A man cleans dried soy beans
Photo: WFP/Badre Bahaji

Timothy cleans his soy beans at the Gwiritse warehouse.

“Before joining the cooperative, I was losing at least 10 percent of my produce because I was using ineffective methods. Through the cooperative, I have learned improved technologies and practices that have helped reduce the grain loss, and now I make more profits,” says Timothy.

“I’ve also learned to keep records, which help me better understand how much profit I make, record my expenses and plan better for the next season. Now I farm for business not just to feed my family.”

Photo: WFP/Badre Bahaji

Record keeping helps Timothy make well-informed decisions and understand farming as a business.

“I also receive crop price text messages on my phone which help me make sound decisions about where and when to sell my produce,” he adds.

Rufina Deodatu, 44, from Khalachulu village, joined the Gwiritse Cooperative in 2016 and started storing her produce in the warehouse in 2017. Unlike in the past, through the cooperative she now has access to loans. She also receives vital market information which helps her fetch better prices.

Photo: WFP/Badre Bahaji

Rufina sifts her corn at the Gwiritse Cooperative warehouse.

“Previously I was selling my produce to vendors who always dictated the prices. Being an individual seller, I had no power to negotiate. Since I joined the cooperative, I’ve seen the power of numbers: We can negotiate better prices with traders — if one declines, we move to the next till we get the right prices for our produce,” she says.

“Before, I would struggle to even buy soap, sugar, cooking oil and other food needs. Now I can afford these, and I can comfortably pay school fees for my four children,” Rufina adds.

“I’ve used part of the money from previous years to buy livestock. I sell the livestock to buy fertilizers. I also use dung from the livestock in my gardens,” concludes Rufina.

Photo: WFP/Badre Bahaji

Being part of a cooperative helps Rufina fetch better prices for her produce and cover comfortably her family’s necessities.

With funding from Flanders International Cooperation Agency, WFP has trained 61,000 members of farmer organizations, 49 percent of whom were women, in post-harvest seed handling, seed grading, seed storage, bagging, warehouse management and financial management.

Through this project, which started in 2011, participating farmers learned new skills and were advised on how to access markets. As a result, farmers like members of the Gwiritse Cooperative in Lilongwe have managed to grow out of poverty and hunger and are now equipped to be competitive players in the market.

This story was written by Francis Thawani and originally appeared on WFP’s Insights.

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