It has not been easy. A very huge piece of land for cultivation and livestock farming, but still no way out.
That has been the dilemma for Kenson Thamangira and his 10-member family over the years.
It had become a lifestyle, so he thought. Until Thamangira was introduced to climate smart agriculture, savings and investment groups in his home village of Kachengera, Traditional Authority Mabuka in Mulanje.
Even though he cannot remember his age, he recalls very well that he has spent a great part of his life living in abject poverty as his only source of income was farming.
“I have been farming on this quarter-acre farmland for sometime now but the yields haven’t been enough to cater for my family. I could not even manage to buy fertilizer as it is expensive,” he recalls.
Luckily, a few years back, he got registered for the government’s social cash transfer (SCT) programme, where the ultra-poor get money, receiving K19 500 every two months.
He says: “I realised that even though the government intervention was not enough, I had to do my part so that our lives change for the better. I decided to venture into basket and mats weaving so I can fend for my children and grandchildren to no avail.
“My income refused to grow despite my hard work until I joined Community Savings and Investment Promotion [Comsip] last year and got trained on climate smart agriculture which promotes the use of manure and other modern farming technologies.”
To the surprise of many, the poor family in the village is now self-reliant and his small farm is now a model for other villagers on how knowledge can save someone from perishing.
Soon after the training, he decided to use his next K19 500 to purchase three goats whose droppings are mixed with organic fertiliser to fertilise the farm.
That was not all.
“We also planted sweet potatoes, pigeon peas together with maize as a way of reducing soil erosion and maximising food security and income,” says Thamangira.
Today, things are no longer the same.
“Our lives have changed. We have plenty to eat and enough income to support our household,” he says.
Comsip Cooperative Union Limited through Financial Access to Rural Markets and Smallholder Enterprise (Farmse) with funding from International Fund for Agriculture Development (Ifad).
The three-year project is implemented in Mulanje and Phalombe targeting the graduation of 37 500 ultra-poor households on SCT programme.
The project aims at seeing improved food security status, improved economic resilience, nutrition and health status, and housing structure of the SCT beneficiaries, by among others, creating savings and investment groups like Mwaiwathu Group being managed by Comsip Chizu Cluster and Thamangira is a member.
The group, which started in November last year, has managed to raise K414 thousand in savings where K389 000 has already been loaned to members at 20 percent interest rate of payable in three months.
Ifad senior regional specialist for rural finance, markets and enterprises from Nairobi office Sauli Hurri, expresses satisfaction with the progress thus far.
He says: “Of course the project is at its infant stage where conclusions on the results cannot be drawn, but the progress is promising.
“We did not expect a group that has been in existence for less than six months to be making such progress. It means the project is on the right track.”
Comsip chief executive officer Tennyson Gondwe observes that while the project is going on smoothly, low participation of men remains a challenge.
He, however, says his organisation will continue supporting the ultra-poor families in their clusters through Bslup until they graduate and become economically independent.
Farmse programme coordinator Dixon Ngwende says it is encouraging to see Comsip members fast adopting technical advises on entrepreneurship and modern farming technologies.
He says: “Hearing a local farmer testifying that after adopting climate smart agriculture, will harvest enough food, as Farmse we are really satisfied that the project is yielding desired fruits.”
Over the years, access to financial products and services has been an issue with a FinScope Malawi 2008 Survey indicating that 80 percent of the adult population was not able to borrow from any source to finance their activities, but this figure went down to 71 percent in 2014.
The Malawi Financial Inclusion Roadmap 2015-2020 focuses on creating infrastructure to enhance the quality and depth of financial inclusion in Malawi.
It lays out a vision for the enhancement of financial inclusion in Malawi to support national objectives through employment creation, human capital development and improved household welfare.