Mercy Zaliro, 32, from Chathamuthumba Village, Traditional Authority (T/A) Mzikubola in Mzimba has for a long time been a proud maize and beans farmer.
From the two crops, she earns money from post-harvest sales.
But what Zaliro realises from the produce is never enough to fend for her family.
“My children need to be provided for and farming is the only ticket I have if I am to fight poverty in my household,” she says.
With help from agriculture facilitators in the area, life has not been that hard for her as she tries to follow every given advice regarding her farming activities and ends up getting more harvests.
However, the year 2017 extended her smile when she joined Chamuthyethye Farmers Club where, among other things, members were taught on how to grow macadamia by the Development Aid from People to People (Dapp) through its Macadamia Project being implemented in Mzimba and Thyolo districts.
Though sceptical at first, the farmers received the news with open arms knowing that despite the time they have to wait for their first harvest, they will benefit more.
“We are used to maize and legumes farming as these crops do not take much time to mature and be sold. Now our fear at first was on the time frame. Macadamia takes time to mature,” says Zaliro.
Another farmer, Paul Kamanga, who once grew coffee in the area, says macadamia farming is proving productive.
Kamanga, who belongs to Kantagwara Farmers Club, says he wants to see members of his community live transformed lives.
His request to Dapp Malawi is to provide more tree seedlings to the farmers who have shown interest in macadamia farming.
“No one should be left behind. We are tired of growing crops which are not bringing any economic impact in our lives. Time has come for us to change our ways and look for other options in the agriculture sector,” Kamanga adds.
All the 10 farmers within his club have each planted 100 macadamia trees. This is also true with all farmers within the Macadamia Project in Mzimba and Thyolo.
Since the trees are grafted, the farmers have been told to remove flowers till the trees are strong and to allow the trees to bear fruits when mature.
Mercy Mhlanga, 26, from Kantagwara Farmers Club in Mzimba, says she hopes for the best from macadamia farming.
“As a young mother, I want my children to live a comfortable life in future where they will have food and clothes. I believe macadamia will make it possible,” she says.
Champhira Extension Planning Area agriculture extension development coordinator Eric Jere asks farmers to use their cooperatives to uplift their livelihoods and communities.
“The only challenge we face with cooperatives is to do with disagreements on certain issues, but my plea to these farmers is to work together if they are to fulfil their goals in life,” he says.
Dapp Malawi Macadamia Project manager Eric Mukhuna says the project targeted 1 500 farmers who graduated to be on a cooperative level.
“We made sure farmers were sensitised first before everything so that they understand that there are other value chain crops other than tobacco,” he says.
Mukhuna says the farmers will be allowed to process their harvested nuts and they will be taught how they can grade them to ensure the nuts are of high quality.
Ministry of Trade and Industry deputy director Charity Musonzo says the ministry is pleased to know there are farmers who are eager to migrate to crops that are perennial in nature and at the same time of a higher economic value.
She says: “With climate change effects, the agriculture sector is being faced with various challenges and farmers need to come up with new farming ideas and technologies if they are to benefit from their activities.
“We are also glad that the market for these macadamia nuts is already there which means it will not be hard for farmers to sell them. As we all know, availability of markets has always been a challenge for most farmers, but this initiative has proved that it is indeed here to help our smallholder farmers. “
Research has shown that a kilogramme of macadamia can be sold at K13 000 and the farmers are happy they have struck gold.
Kamanga attests to that: “Every macadamia tree that I planted is my boss and I respect and take care of it just as my child.”