A Lilongwe-based businessperson, Thoko Unyolo, on Saturday launched a legume seed company, Afriseed, which will create jobs for 1 300 Malawians in the first year of its operation.
The firm, expected to be a contract farming partnership business model, will help to promote quality seed production in rural areas.
Speaking in an interview on the sidelines of the launch, Unyolo, Afriseed founder and chief executive officer (CEO) explained the idea to establish a firm came during her student days in South Africa.
“I came back for my research and my research established various challenges currently choking the country’s agricultural sector. For instance, the country has a 79 percent deficit in current legume seed, lack of access to adequate extension services and poor storage capacity leading to perennial post harvest losses, among others. I saw a gap and Afriseed hopes to help fill in the gap,” she said.
“By creating a network of rural farmers who are able to feed themselves, feed their families and feed the nation, we hope to address the persistent food security threats affecting the region and, Malawi in particular. We want to make a difference and contribute to the economy of this country before expanding to some countries in the Sadc region such as Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa,” said Unyolo.
Grain Traders Association of Malawi (Gtam) executive director Grace Mhango and Walusungu Mhango are the other co-directors of the firm.
The company’s core business, according to Unyolo, will include legume seed multiplication, packaging, farm mechanisation and rural enterprise development.
As a brainchild of Africa Women Entrepreneurship Programme that also targets women in agribusiness on the African continent, the new firm will also be providing agri-inputs and access to contract commodity buyers to help women farmers achieve their business objectives and transfer skills to ensure sustainability.
Special adviser to the country’s vice-president, Joshua Varela, who was guest of honour during the launch, challenged Afriseed to live up to its expectations as far as seed security is concerned.
“Without seed security, Africa, let alone this country, will never attain food security. Your efforts should ensure that you contribute to rural economic empowerment and economic independence,” he said.
Civil Society Agriculture Network (Cisanet) national director Tamani Nkhono Mvula heaped praise on the establishment of the legume seed firm.
“I believe the coming in of the new legume seed company will bring in some positive change in many small-scale farmers, most of whom are women. That said, to best grow Malawi’s agriculture, institutions coming on such a stage need to instil in farmers the need to combine traditional farming methods, irrigation farming and mobile technology if they are to improve the efficiency and quality of legume seed yield,” he said.