Comsip Cooperative Union Limited has supported its member cooperatives and clusters in the production of legumes under the Legumes Enterprise Structured Production (Lesp) project as an investment enterprise in addition to meeting the needs for nutrition and health of the farmers’ families.
Some member cooperatives and clusters in 10 districts are producing beans, pigeon peas and soya beans which have been cultivated on at least 250 hectares and the harvest projection is 123,556 kilogrammes for beans, 38,743 for soya beans and 33,600 for pigeon peas. At least 7,543 cooperative and cluster members are involved in the production of the legumes.
Comsip provided the farmers with certified seed, fertiliser, pesticides and protective wear (facemasks and gloves) to be used during spraying of pesticides.
Comsip Agribusiness Officer, Ernest Jumbe, in an interview said over the years, there has been an outcry from the Comsip Groups and Comsip Cooperatives / Clusters on the support to engage in high value crop production to enhance their incomes beyond their usual business enterprises.
“The Union surveyed the landscape and identified some structural problems in the agriculture productivity sector that perpetuates rural poverty. There are problems in the supply side and the demand side.
“In the supply side, the production of various staple and cash crops is not structured; production for the market is at individual household level and is not aggregated for volume supply; acquisition of input follows the unstructured mode and access has been costly; extension services has been selective reaching individuals organised in loosely constituted groups and the number of extension workers reducing overtime as a result low yielding seed is used,” said Jumbe.
He added that in the demand side, the markets are not organised at community level and the vendors have taken advantage of the situation to the extent of buying the crop while in the field/gardens before harvesting and often at low prices. Prices mostly fluctuate and farmers have no patience to wait for price improvement and the harvest period is also a peak for low incomes and the way out is to sell the produce at what the market can and becomes a buyers’ market. “They are price takers.”
“Through the analysis of different crops that cooperatives proposed to engage into, further explained Jumbe, the Union selected beans production which will serve both purposes of Comsip intervention in Masaf 4: Strengthening Safety net project funded by the World Bank through the Local Development Fund.
Firstly, as an income generating activity enterprise and in addition meeting the needs for nutrition and health promotion, he said.
“The significance of the project is to enhance the leading role of beans in food, nutrition and income security and sustainable agriculture specifically by supporting sustainable structured production, optimising modern production technology including post-harvest handling and value addition processing for regional markets, and operationalising the stable business and market linkages using the futures market concept to hedge risks.
He also cited the improved perception of beans as a lead protein crop that can reduce stunting growth of children and the promotion of legume production as source of income thereby enhancing saving and investment among Comsip farmer groups as further benefits.
Last week, meanwhile, Comsip Cooperative Union Limited enhanced its relationship with the farmers by organising a link meeting with agriculture extension officers so that the officers should train the farmer groups on all aspects of legume production including post-harvest management.
Dorothy Maxwell of Mwaiwathu Comsip Cluster in Ntchisi hailed the support from the Union, saying members are excited and look forward to a good season while Alice Gezani from Chisumbu Comsip Cluster wants the project to continue in the next growing seasons.
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