Estere Wisike, from Namaonya near Thekerani Thekerani Trading Centre inThyolo District never dreamt of owning a dairy cow in her life.
For years, she could only envy her neighbours and peers who were reaping benefits from the dairy cows.
For them, it was more than just the three Ms, namely milk, money and manure. It was a way of life.
“Most of my friends have had dairy cows for many years and they have all been doing good ever since, but it never crossed my mind that I could own one someday,” says Wisike, 51.
For over three decades, the mother of eight was admittedly satisfied being a housewife fully dependent on her husband, who did piecework both within and outside the hilly district to feed the family. At times, older children had to accompany him to do low-paying works.
“To me, it wasn’t a problem. But later, I realised that we had to do something about it because we were living hand-to-mouth,” she states.
However, her story started to change in February when Wisike was selected to receive a dairy cow in a pass-on programme implemented by Thyolo District Council.
“I was surprised when I was selected as a beneficiary of the programme. I didn’t know how to react to the news. I had never taken care of a cow before,” she narrates.
Wisike erected a barn for the cow with advice from her experienced friends. When the cow gives birth, she is supposed to relay the calf to another beneficiary in line with the programme dos and don’ts.
“I felt happy when I received the cow this month. I will diligently take care of it so that I can reap the intended benefits as do my colleagues. I will not hesitate to seek advice from them when I need further assistance,” she pledges.
Wisike hopes to become self-reliant by joining one of the milk cooperatives in the district.
She envisages the proceeds of milk sales helping her complement her husband’s efforts in supporting the family “so that the children can focus on school instead of fending for the household”.
Thyolo district commissioner Douglas Moffat says 30 farmers are expected to benefit from the pass-on programme, one of the local government’s socio-economic reforms to expand milk production in the district.
“This important initiative shows that the council’s commitment to ensure that whatever we agreed as part of our reform areas and budget lines is being implemented,” she says.
Moffat urges the beneficiaries to take care of the cows so that many people can benefit and become self-reliant.
Thyolo South legislator Mphatso Sandram Scott says the district council spent about K10 million from the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) to buy the cows.
The lawmaker reiterated his commitment to ensuring the annual fund, now raised from K40 million to K100 000 per constituency, are not abused, but bankroll programmes that benefit constituents.
Abuse of CDF in many of the 193 constituencies nationwide remains rampant.
“We want to ensure that CDF is used to empower constituents economically and not to enrich the rich. Besides, these funds are not only meant for building bridges but also uplifting our constituents,” says Sandram.
He hopes the dairy cows will indeed enhance the lives and livelihoods of his constituents.
Studies show that about 36 000 dairy cows owned by hundreds of cooperatives and associations produce about 13.5 million litres a year. About nine in every 10 of these cows are in the Southern Region, mainly Thyolo and Mulanje. Some 61 percent of the country’s 9 600 farmers are based in the region.