The Malawi Organic Growers Association (Moga) in partnership with the World University Services of Canada (Wusc) has mobilised over 1 500 farmers in Ntcheu to grow organic coffee whose market has already been found in Taiwan.
Moga executive director Lawrence Chidaya said 10-year contracts with Taiwanese companies have already been signed.
Speaking after touring the Mangoni Organic Coffee Growers Cooperative Society Limited in Ntcheu on Tuesday, Chidaya said coffee has potential to take farmers out of poverty because it is a perennial crop, which can last for over 20 years in the field.
Said Chidaya: “We started this coffee project in 2011 after thoroughly scrutinising crops, which could help the country diversify its exports. We currently are working with 1 000 farmers belonging to six cooperatives but we hope to increase the number to 2 000 by next year.
“The good thing is that over 67 percent of the farmers are women and we know this will help the project to be sustainable.”
He said by next year, Ntcheu alone will have over 2.1 million trees of organic coffee with each farmer owning 3 000 trees.
Chidaya said plans are underway to purchase a coffee roaster, which will be used by the farmers in the area to roast their coffee as part of the value addition chain so that it fetches more money on the market.
“We have already signed a contract with a buyer from Taiwan and once the roaster is in, then the farmers will have a very good alternative source of income because it fetches a lot of money as compared to crops such as beans, tomatoes, cabbages and Irish potatoes, which are grown in abundance in this area,” he said.
Wusc executive director Jacob Mapemba said they allocated about K7 million to the coffee project in Ntcheu to help farmers grow quality crop and purchase a coffee roaster, which will be in the country soon.
“We are the managers of the Canadian High Commission Fund in Malawi and, every year, we support four projects, two in early forced marriages and two in economic development.
“The coffee project is one of economic development sectors and we know that once the coffee roaster is in, the farmers will be making more money,” he said.
Mangoni Cooperative chairperson Felix Zefaniya Jumbe said they plan that each farmer should be producing over five tonnes of coffee by 2016.
“When we started this project, there was a lot of apprehension but now more people are joining the coffee clubs. By December, we will have over 15 clubs because not many people have achieved a lot out of vegetable farming and see coffee as a crop to save them not only now but also in future as well,” he said.