Andrea Dalitsani’s story is the stuff of fairytale among his peers.
At 25, he is the proud owner of a four-bedroom red-brick house, a grocery, goats and chickens within his fenced compound in Kaimvi Village, Dedza.
When we visited his home on a rainy Sunday afternoon, we waited about an hour to meet the ambitious youthful farmer as he was busy in his soybean crop fields about five kilometres away.
He apologised for keeping us waiting, but we were glad to hear how the self-made entrepreneur built his growing empire from zero.
Andrea’s fairytale rise started in 2015 when he realised that his Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE), obtained two years earlier, offered him limited opportunities to advance his life.
“Then, I left my parents in Kasungu and came to Dedza to stay with my grandparents in search of better opportunities. Here I joined Kaimvi Youth Club in Traditional Authority [T/A] Kachere,” he says.
The club, supported by World Vision International (WVI), trains the youth in various aspects of finance management, including budgeting, savings and entrepreneurship.
With this knowledge, Andrea set out to prove that the youth have the potential to excel in small-scale commercial farming.
“I started by doing menial piece works back in 2015 for established farmers where I earned and saved some money. With the savings, I bought a piece of land and built a house,” he recalls.
He roofed the house in 2016, and he is determined to install solar power in the home.
He used the remainder of his savings to rent a crop field where he grew soybean which he sold for K60 000 last year.
Presently, Andrea rents four fields on which he grows soybean, sweet potatoes, tomato, maize, groundnuts and sugarcane.
“I realise about K350 000 per plot,” he says.
In the 2017/18 growing season, Andrea expects to get over K500 000 per plot.
But what is his secret?
“Firstly,” says the father-of-one, “I adhere to family planning. Poverty comes because of uncontrolled child-bearing and lack of planning in everything you do.”
Admittedly, he and his wife, Christina, are satisfied with just one daughter who is three-year-old. They named her Grace.
“We are planning to have another child only if our financial situation improves,” he says, and Christina nods to this.
This will also give them time to grow their business and raise Grace to the best of their ability, they say.
With proper finance management, the second driving force, they think everything is possible.
“As a key member of Kaimvi Youth Club, I make use of the knowledge I get from various trainings. In this club, we conduct some skill transfer activities among ourselves. I always put them into practice,” explains Andrea, with a broad smile.
Andrea also utilises the knowledge he gets from World Vision facilitators who oversee youth club’s activities through Action for Adolescence (A4A) project.
A4A empowers the youth to become independent.
Andrea’s dreams to engage in large-scale farming and provide employment opportunities to other people.
According to Kaimvi Youth Club chairperson Charity Kabwazi, Andrea is a role model to 19 members of the club and their peers in the village.
“His success has inspired club and non-club members to strive for success and be like him,” she says.
Kabwazi also salutes World Vision for transforming the youth to avoid risky behaviour and concentrate on developing their lives for positive change.
Kabwazi, however, appeals to the Christian organisation and other change agents to empower the youth with more capital investment for business growth.
World Vision project officer in Dedza, Thandeka Nkhonde, says it is their vision to see the youth standing on their own.
“The youth make up the majority of the country’s population. If they are socially and economically empowered, the country will achieve social and economic transformation,” he says.
Andrea is eager to build on his current success.
In the interview, he pensively gazes into the sky and slowly murmurs to himself: “It all feels like a dream that I will at one point wake up from, but no, it is really me Andrea Dalitsani.
“Next time we meet, I will be at another level and you won’t believe how far I will have gone.” n