Malawi project succeeds to improve yields for sugarcane farmers

Solidaridad will be completing three years of work with smallholder sugarcane farmers in Malawi, together with its Implementing Partner, Concern Universal. The work is aimed at improving the livelihoods of farmers and workers in “the warm heart of Africa” as the country is also fondly known. Since the inception of the programme farmers have started to use fewer pesticides and less water in their production activities.

Now Solidaridad together with local non-governmental organisation, Concern Universal continues the project under a financial programme managed by Solidaridad, the Farmer Support Programme (FSP). The project builds upon earlier achievements, aimed at improving the yields of smallholders in Malawi’s newly developing sugar industry.

The expanding number of sugarcane out-growers in Malawi is currently far from fulfilling their economic potential. An ongoing Schokland Fund project has contributed to a 15% rise in sugar production among smallholders, and established a powerful structure for outreach to the broader sugarcane community. The financial contribution for the project is fully financed by the EU, and the spending will focus on 2013/2014.

Our goals and target groups

Through the project, Solidaridad seeks to address the key constraints that are hampering economic development among the target group of out-grower farmers, who are an important part of the regional economy. Our work also seeks to strengthen policy structures (regulatory framework, land registry and allocation), farmer organizations and information management structures (among others on Bonsucro compliance).

There are currently 2 107 out-growers supplying to either of the two Illovo mills in Malawi. Overall, the project will target about 2 500 farmers, who are organized into nine grower organizations. Most farmers in the project are resettled subsistence farmers with low business understanding and low awareness of their rights and obligations towards third parties, most notably their representative bodies.

Solidaridad ensures continued farmer support

Jo Thomas, Deputy Country Director and Local Economic Development Programme Manager for Concern Universal says; “The Support from Solidaridad has been essential in allowing Concern Universal to reach out to over 1 700 smallholder sugar growers. Through intensive training they have improved their cane husbandry and introduced more sustainable land management practices.

An improved understanding of cane growing as a business is beginning to show dividends, in terms of increased productivity.”

He further states that continued support through FSP will allow Concern Universal to among others strengthen sustainable management systems, expand Fairtrade benefits, and improve governance and accountability of smallholder management organisations. Most of the FSP contribution will fall into 2015, and it will be largely spent on the institutional work with Concern Universal.