His round face gave out an impression of a disconnecting human being and his heart, appeared to turning into a complete Chinese sensei somersault and plugging itself back into position.
The veins on his wrinkled forehead stood out as he enormously tried to chuckle. He then silently laid his index finger somewhat dexterous against a twitching muscle at the corner of his mouth.
For many farmers it is hard and a tad impossible to cope up with the incessant skyrocketing prices for domestic animal feed especially from the commercial feed producers.
Livestock farmers need affordable feed to be able smile across the miles.
It is tough.
“Most of our farmers cannot afford to buy the basic feed offered by the commercial feed producers and this affects productivity in the case of dairy cattle farmers,” says Lackson Kampunga, chairperson of Bvumbwe Dairy Cooperative.
For Malawi’s farmers livestock is an important source of income through selling and proteins as food 55% of them keep livestock mostly at a subsistence scale which is affected by many challenges, on top of which is feeding. Creating a new breed of agricultural entrepreneurs is one way of addressing this challenge as they will be able to support the livestock value chains with supply of low-cost feed. Efforts to support livestock farmers to more profitable business have often been thwarted by high feed costs, commercial stock feeds being unaffordable.
A number of farmer groups in the districts of Balaka, Chiradzulu and Thyolo in southern part of Malawi have embarked on the journey to create business out of local feed processing.
The Crop Livestock Integration and Marketing in Malawi CLIM2 provided these groups with diesel operated hammer mills (locally known as Chigayo cha Dizilo). The project supported seven farmer business groups, with about 30 members, in the tree districts and five of them were registered as Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).
“With the hammer mill, we are processing livestock feed and providing grain milling services for food to surrounding communities,” says Monica Mapemba, a member of Chimtengo Youth Poultry Company in Chiradzulu District.
She adds: “This has improved our income levels and this has led to fulfilment of our goals as hammer mill and poultry rearing entrepreneurs.”
To ensure they move the path, the group has registered as a limited company with the 5 members as its shareholders and directors. With these hammer mills, farmers in the area are able to have their grains like pigeon peas, cow peas, sorghum and maize, milled into livestock feed. CLIM2 trained the farmer groups also in feed making “The hammer mills are helping farmers use available grains turn into low-cost nutrition rich feed, “says Lackson Kampunga.
While giving the company incomes, this has enhanced livestock productivity for local farmers who had nowhere to mill their feed.
“The cheaper locally made feed boosts income for smallholder producers when selling livestock. Through consumption of livestock products, households are also benefitting in terms of nutrition,” says Frank Matchado, CLIM2 District Officer for Chiradzulu.
While supporting the livestock value chains, the hammer mills are also facilitating local trade in the locations they have been put.
“The hammer mills are installed amongst farming communities and are more accessible than the maize mills installed in designated trading centers. This saves time and transportation costs for both livestock producers and those seeking grain-flour milling services. This encourages processing of small quantities of small grains and legumes for more nutritious porridge,” explains Claire Mwamadi, CLIM2 Monitoring and Evaluation Officer.
She adds that hammer mills also attract vendors and farmers who come to sell their commodities outside like fruits, vegetables, fish and other basic necessities.
“People coming for the mill are able to buy other things sold outside by vendors who come following the mill. The community accesses their daily needs more easily and farmers and traders find a produce market and marketing place as hammer mill users are seen as potential buyers,” she says.
“At this initial stage, their monthly gross margins range between K52,950 to K114,000 per month. Indirectly the mills improve income by reducing feed costs, and increase production, widely accessible effects for chickens (women, youth),” explains Mwamadi.
In Balaka, Rose Smart, a widowed mother of 5, has seen her small business receiving more customers with the coming of the hammer mill. “I am now able to sell tomatoes, doughnuts, soya pieces, and beans near my homestead.”
“People who have their food processed at the mill, buy from me. This helps me to support my family. With the proceeds, as my business progresses, I plan to buy goats,” she narrates.
The project secured 12 hammer mills for farmer groups in Balaka, Chiradzulu and Thyolo Districts. It is expected that over 5000 households will benefit from the hammer mills. For the construction of the hammer mill shelters, security measures and to start running the hammer mills as working capital, the groups contributed funds and relied on their own labour.
Hammer mills bring a variety of trades together, people who sell commodities benefit from those that have their foods processed. Access to these hammer mill thereby improves access to nutritious food for the families in different ways.
They provide communities with a market for their farm produce and unveil the capacity to participate in trading opportunities.
Hammer mills operate almost every day as such they create a daily produce market in the community unlike the designated markets which have specific days in a week, and some are also far away from farming households.
The project has also built local capacity in business planning and management, group dynamics and record keeping, feed processing and market exploration skills.
In conjunction with government agriculture extension officers, this has improved farmers’ technical expertise, and the way they organise themselves around market opportunities.
The project on Improved livelihoods through sustainable intensification and diversification of market-oriented crop-livestock systems in southern Malawi (CLIM2) is working to strengthen diversification and integration in crop-livestock farming systems in three districts of Malawi.
The project is funded by the European Union under the Farm Income Diversification Programme (FIDP) Phase II – Agribusiness, and implemented by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropic (ICRISAT), Small Scale Livestock and Livelihoods Programme (SSLP) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).