For Angella Banda, life has not been easy. Like many housewives in Malawi, she used to depend on her husband for everything required by her household.
“As farmers, we used to spend the whole farming season doing piecework in the fields of wealthy neighbours instead of attending to ours. As such, we could not feed our children from one harvest to the next,” says the mother of three.
Her family was a laughing stock because she used to beg food from neighbours in Nakoli Village, Traditional Authority Mpama in Chiradzulu.
She discarded the begging bowl in 2015 when she joined Talandira Poultry Cooperative. The group discusses income generating ideas, including modern farming methods, business management and poultry rearing.
The same year, the group received support from Sustainable Agricultural Productivity Programme (Sapp) from the Department of Agriculture Extension Services in the Ministry of Agriculture.
The programme funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (Ifad) offered Banda nine hens and one cock which have multiplied.
“Within a year, I passed on 20 chickens to two farmers in my group. I have since sold some to buy seven goats and four pigs which will soon multiply,” she brags.
Banda’s family now has food throughout the year, thanks to manure from the animals which she applies to her crop field to improve soil fertility and moisture retention.
Banda plans to build a better house to wave goodbye to her grass-thatched hut.
“As a cooperative, we want to help all interested farmers in our area to realise that livestock farming is just as beneficial as crop production,” she adds.
Cooperative chairperson Henry Jonathan says most members no longer live hand-to-mouth and their livelihoods are changing.
“We couldn’t afford fertiliser worth K23 000 for a bag weighing 50 kilogrammes, but now we rely on manure from poultry and livestock to harvest more from the same barren fields where yield was dwindling,” he explains.
To achieve their shared goal to beat hunger and poverty, the group has dos and don’ts.
They remain in business despite the Covid-19 pandemic which requires them to stay at home, avoid big gatherings and stay far apart.
The group owns a shop where they sell dressed chickens, with a slaughterhouse currently under construction.
Margret Nkuziona, agriculture extension development coordinator in Mbulumbudzi Extension Planning Area, says members of Talandira cooperative are determined to end poverty.
She says: “Through Sapp Village Challenge Fund, the group has asked for facilities to help them expand their territory. They started rearing chicken in one village, but now have reached three.
“They appear keen to improve livelihoods in their area and they have become role models to many farmers given what they have achieved.”
According to Sapp coordinator Rex Baluwa, the programme seeks to alleviate poverty by promoting rural livelihoods.
Livestock farming is one of the strategies to ensure rural households have enough food and money to shed poverty.
He explains: “We want to ensure that rural Malawians can afford their needs through the various agricultural activities in their areas.
“We encourage the integrated homestead farming where farmers use manure to restore soil fertility in their farm lands and also sell livestock to purchase fertiliser and other farm inputs.”