In an effort to encourage cotton production in the country, the Malawi Economic Justice Network (Mejn) has set its target to influence policies and initiatives surrounding the cotton production and marketing.
Mejn programmes manager responsible for the Southern Africa Trust (SAT) project, Martha Khungwe-Munthali, was speaking in Balaka last Friday when the network visited cotton farmers in the district.
Munthali said Mejn first conducted studies in Salima and Balaka on the effect of farm-gate prices on food security of cotton farmers.
“This was after a realisation that there is always research output out there but it is not used to influence policy because the medium in which the messages are taken to the public does not have access to the research output,” she said.
She also said the study discovered that cotton farmers in Malawi are faced with low cotton farm gate prices which have resulted into reduced number of growers and low production.
“We want to embark on advocacy together with our local collaborators. We are back here to give the farmers feedback on the study and capture their voices regarding the issues highlighted in the study,” said Munthali.
One of the cotton farmers in Salima, village head Ching’oma, could not hide his disappointment with how he had fared during his last cotton sales.
“The opening prices were between K190 and K210 per kilogramme (kg). But then the buyers lowered them up to K100 per kg. There were no negotiations and in the end we agreed because we could not keep our cotton to ourselves forever,” said Ching’oma.
He said farmers started experiencing the challenges even before they planted the cotton seeds.
“For the past two years, government has taken over the provision of cotton seeds and pesticides from the private companies. However, we are faced with late planting as the seeds do not reach us on time. This has also affected our production,” he said.
Mejn, financed by SAT, is collaborating with partners within SAT including local organisations such as Cotton Development Trust (CDT) and Cisanet to strengthen linkages between research, media and advocacy on cotton production.