The event drew participation from agro-processors, microfinance institutions, non-governmental organizations, the regulatory body Malawi Bureau of Standards, agro-input suppliers and farmers from Kasungu and Mzimba districts. This was the third annual market symposium organized within the framework of the Government of Flanders funded project, Marketing Capacity Building for Smallholder Farmers in Kasungu and Mzimba districts, which aims at reducing rural poverty through market-oriented agriculture.
The Director of Administration in the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, Mr. Maxwell Tsitsi, who represented the Principal Secretary for Agriculture as guest of honour, emphasized in his speech, benefits of the symposium, such as the establishment of sustainable business relations, and building of confidence and trust between farmers and key value chain players.
“It provides a platform for farmers to negotiate and to secure good prices for their produce thus establishing profitable markets for future enterprises,” he said.
Microfinance institutions, shared information with farmers about products such as insurance policies, savings accounts and loan facilities. Regarding why it was imperative to facilitate dialogue between microfinance bodies and farmers, Yvonne Mmangisa, Head of Technical Section for FAO Malawi said,
“It is important that as farmers earn money, they are able to manage and secure it. Over the years, village savings and loans schemes cumulative savings have increased gradually and with large amounts of money in circulation, I encourage farmers present to find out more and make objective decisions about what institutions are offering in terms of financial guidance and products.”
Village savings and loans scheme cumulative savings under the project peaked at MK 107 million (€130 917) in 2018. As at July 2019, the existing 379 groups had accumulated MK 99 million (€121 232), and it is envisaged that by the end of the year, this will have surpassed the 2018 savings.
Twenty-three exhibitors participated in the event, providing information, and interacting with farmers, whereas 64 famers representing 51 different farmer groups, exhibited samples of their produce and provided details regarding their activities.
There were presentations made on topical issues with the aim of providing a critical review of different value chains with regard to competitiveness, addressing the gap between demand and production of legumes and oil seed, harnessing opportunities in the food processing business and exploring how rural communities can create their own financial assets.