It is almost midday on a Thursday and uncharacteristically cold in Thyolo District, southern Malawi. But for 34-year-old Chifundo Mmane, it is ideal weather for her horticulture business. Chifundo waters her vegetable garden, about 40 meters away from her home. From afar, the garden is vividly green, a lush oasis amidst dry uncultivated land. Chifundo, a single mother, is using drip irrigation with basic but modern technology.
She is amongst 20 women farmers who are celebrating in Chinkwende Village, in Traditional Authority Bvumbwe Thyolo district. Through the smallholder irrigation initiative set up in the area by Roseberry Farms, a for profit private sector operator in the horticulture industry, their stories of transformation are an inspiration to many.
“Every member of the group has greatly benefited,” says Mmane.
Through this horticulture business each member now earns between 100,000 - 150,000 Malawi Kwacha a month, compared to an average of 30,000 Malawi Kwacha previously.
“Previously, this area was underdeveloped and most of the houses were grass thatched. Today, we can proudly say that every member has earned enough from the horticulture business to buy iron-sheets to roof their house,” boasts Mmane.
However, there is still need for greater investment to include more women and underprivileged people to reach the goal of promoting Malawi as a high value horticulture exporting nation.
“Roseberry Farms started about three years ago out of passion; the passion was to lift people out of poverty. There are a lot of hard-working people in Malawi that are not given a break and Roseberry Farms’ main goal is to lift people out of poverty and make their lives sustainable and successful and get them to live above the poverty line. So, Roseberry Farms came into being to lift the country’s economic capacity and to lift the economic capacity of Malawians so that Malawi should not be importing a lot of things. If we stop importing, the money can be redirected to hospitals, schools and infrastructure. If we are getting things locally, we are able to conserve foreign exchange and it can be put to good use. The project that is being implemented by Roseberry Farms involves establishing a dual supply chain which produces high value vegetables for the retail market directly aimed at import substitution.” Said Ruth Kalima, the founder for Roseberry Farms
The project is supported through the Malawi Innovation Challenge Fund (MICF) – a US$21 million competitive, transparent mechanism that provides matching-grant finance for innovative projects proposed by the private sector active in Malawi’s agricultural, manufacturing and logistics sectors.
Supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Department for International Development (UKAid), and the German Development Bank (KFW), MICF is designed to be a quick, responsive mechanism that has a deep understanding of the needs of the private sector in Malawi.
MICF have benefitted at the aggregate level around 80,750 women (or around 32% of all beneficiaries). In terms of female headed households, the programme to-date has benefited around 5,880 female headed households throughout the country through net positive income and livelihood improvement. Through its interventions, around 420 full time direct jobs have been created for women.