Smallholder farmers in Dedza, Mchinji, Zomba, Ntchisi and Blantyre are enjoying fruits of their labour, thanks to Rural Livelihoods and Economic Enhancement Programme (Rleep) which has given meaning to their work.
In the 2012/13 fiscal year, Parliament allocated K295.69 million towards Rleep, which aims at engaging the private sector to support small scale farming.
Rleep further seeks to strengthen farmers’ participation in the market by improving production, transport, storage, processing and marketing systems for commodities such as groundnuts and Irish potatoes.
According to monitoring and evaluation officer for the programme, Emmanuel Mang’anya, Rleep’s goal is to sustainably improve the income of economically active poor rural households.
Explained Mang’anya: “The country is currently undergoing economic liberalisation, under which the government is reforming parastatal marketing institutions and market interventions to move into the global market economy.
“The main objective of Rleep is to ensure that poor rural households engaged in agriculture, livestock and fish production have a role in the increasingly competitive, liberalized economy. Activities focus on supporting poor rural producers so they can benefit from efficient markets and added value for their agricultural products.”
Rleep, which started its operations in 2010, is an eight-year programme that was being implemented in Mchinji, Ntchisi, Dedza where the focus is now on Irish potatoes, cotton farming.
The programme has now expanded to Blantyre and Zomba where the focus is largely on dairy production.
“In Mchinji alone, we are working with 35 farmer clubs located in the area of Traditional Authority (T/A) Mlonyeni. As a community and local agro-dealership programme, the project aims at supporting farmers into commercial (Irish) potato farming by promoting active community participation and ownership of village based agro-inputs shops.
“The project brings fair competition among suppliers of farm inputs by influencing and stable prices of agro-chemicals in rural areas. Farmers save time by accessing inputs from within their villages at door steps without traveling long distances. Farmers enjoy original products that give them satisfaction and value for money,” said Mang’anya.
District agricultural extension officer for Mchinji, Steter Magombo, said Rleep is promoting productivity and commercialisation of smallholder agriculture through enhancement of productivity of selected commodities in response to market demand.
“It is using the pro-poor value chain approach and working with partners through grant facilities. The focal point is promoting growth in rural areas to reduce poverty and improve living standards.
“Investments are directed towards improving agricultural productivity and access to viable markets, promoting the sustainable use of natural resources and strengthening local institutions at community and household levels by providing support for the decentralisation process,” explained Magombo.
One of the programme’s beneficiaries, Anettie Banda, from Mchinji expressed gratitude to Rleep for changing her social status.
“We now have better bargaining powers and our access to markets has been enhanced tremendously; this has also helped us gain access to agro-inputs,” she said.
The programme is partly financed by the Debt Sustainability Framework (DSF).