Farmers Union of Malawi (FUM) has accused the Ministry of Industry and Trade for delaying to register farmers’ cooperatives in the country.
While the ministry has been urging farmers to form and work in cooperatives, it has taken some farmer groups up to seven years to be a registered cooperative.
In an interview on Thursday, FUM president Alfred Kapichira-Banda said the delay in registering the cooperatives is one of the biggest challenges farmers are facing countrywide.
He alleged that officials from the ministry, at times, ask for kickbacks to train farmers in cooperative member education, which is one of the requirements before registration.
“We have the ministry’s officials at district level who we think would equally train the farmers with the blessings from Capital Hill, but they say it is only headquarters officials who can conduct the training,” said Kachapichira Banda.
He said FUM has, therefore, asked the responsible Minister Joseph Mwanamvekha to intervene.
Chairperson of FUM in Mzimba North Albert Nyirongo said it has taken Jandalala Legume Farmers Cooperative seven years to be registered.
While chairperson for Takumanapo Cooperative, Bootchie Shaba, from Khonsolo in Mzimba said though her group applied in 2012, they are yet to be trained.
“In January last year, we were asked to contribute money for fuel, accommodation and food for the trainers. Though we contributed K100 000 (about $217), they have still not come to train us and we still have the money,” she said.
Shaba said the cooperative cannot access bank loans to advance its legume and poultry farming because it is not registered.
“It is even hard to market our produce,” she said.
Ministry of Industry and Trade spokesperson Wiskes Mkombezi said the Cooperative Department is understaffed with only 10 personnel against authorised establishment of 21.
He, however, said the ministry is aware of the vacancies and that the department is sometimes faced with financial constraints that make it fail to meet the demand.
On getting financial support from cooperatives to offer training, Mkombezi said: “Other cooperatives meet travel costs of our staff members to train them when we face some financial constraints”.
He said there are 470 registered cooperatives in Malawi.