Mzimba District is closely associated with some men who migrate to South Africa in search for greener pastures.
Most of them spend several years in South Africa without paying a visit to their wives and children.
Although some manage to turn around their economic status after securing jobs in the rainbow nation, others come back frustrated.
Forty-one-year-old Lucky Nyirenda from group village head (GVH) Kamanga in the district is among many Malawians that ended up being frustrated after migrating to South Africa in search for well-paying jobs.
After 11 years working in the rainbow nation, Nyirenda ended up coming back home with nothing tangible to show.
“I used to go to South Africa to work. I could stay there for two years then come back for a month’s holiday.
“I could spend the money I came with hoping to make more when I go back,” he says.
However, Nyirenda later realised that life in South Africa was not as easy as he had expected.
“I had to carry my passport everywhere I went and lived in perpetual fear of being deported for over stay or robbed of my money,” he says.
He adds that even when visiting Malawi, transporting goods from South Africa was hectic.
Again, the money he was making in South Africa was not enough for consumables as it could finish at some point with nothing to invest, he says.
However, in 2014, when Nyirenda returned to Malawi, he was introduced to Manyamula Cooperative Society under the Community Savings and Investment Promotion (Comsip) Cooperative Union Ltd which has now transformed his life.
Comsip’s mission is to economically empower ordinary Malawians through member owned savings and investment cooperatives by providing flexible loans and other services.
“In 2014, I borrowed K20 000 as capital, invested it in farming business which has now grown to millions of kwacha,” he says.
Nyirenda boasts of a dairy cow which supplies him with milk for household consumption and sale of surplus. He also rears chickens and guinea fowls besides cultivating maize and vegetables on a large-scale.
“There is profit in farming business. can afford decent meals compared to our colleagues who are still in South Africa and I spend my money with my family.
“I don’t dream of going back to South Africa as I’m now comfortable with life back home here.
“I’ve found ‘gold’ in farming; the money that I make is enough to support my family with all needs. I am urging my friends who are still in South Africa to come back home and invest here,” he says.
Nyirenda, who has four children, gets 20 litres of milk a day from the cow and sells at K250 per litre. He also sells broiler chickens and eggs from egg-laying chickens and guinea fowls.
He uses chickens to hatch guinea fowl eggs and sell the chicks to fellow villagers. He is a beneficiary of Manyamula Comsip’s Livestock Integration Programme under which farmers encourage one another to rear livestock.
Manyamula Comsip Cooperative Society is in the area of Paramount Chief M’mbelwa in the district. It started in 2010 with 11 members.
The cooperative’s book keeper, Mbwenu Chirwa, says it started after members noted that many people in the area were failing to pay back loans they were getting from other money lending institutions due to high interest rates.
“Now the group has 180 members comprising 92 men and 88 women,” Chirwa says.
To make farmers realise profits, the cooperative does collective marketing whereby member farmers bring their produce which they sell as a group at better prices.
The Manyamula Comsip cooperative has businesses for income generation. Currently, its assets, which include two maize mills, a multi-purpose hall and two guestrooms, are valued at K22 million.
Comsip Cooperative Union Ltd is a member-owned union of savings and investment cooperative societies.
It serves a population of over 150 000 members organised in groups, clusters and cooperatives in all the 28 districts of Malawi. Currently, the union has over 400 cooperatives and over 4 000 groups across Malawi.
Comsip information, education and communications officer Emmanuel Muwamba commends Manyamula cooperative saying it is meeting Comsip’s objectives as evidenced by how it has facilitated the transformation of the life of Nyirenda and his family.
“Our objectives are to promote voluntary savings by individuals and households, to increase asset base through savings, to promote business skills, and to enhance sustainable income generation opportunities at household and society levels,” he says.
As somebody said ‘grass is greener where you water it,’ perhaps Nyirenda’s story confirms that there is no need for Malawians to migrate to South Africa for greener pastures when they can water their own right here with cooperative societies. n