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Ray of Hope in Soya Farming
Written By: Madalitso Banda
The introduction of training for 600 farmers on sustainable agriculture practices among 80 VLSA groups has bought hope, relief and excitement among VSLA members and their communities in Malawi. CARE is utilizing the Farmers Field and Business School (FFBS) approach, which involves conducting workshops and sessions on nutritional education with an emphasis on individual participation.
Christina Banda, a 54-year-old grandmother, and her husband, Haswell Banda, have 10 children, but only their youngest daughter was able to attend secondary school. Haswell and Christina tried to farm tobacco for many years with nothing to show for their labor, leading them to give up in 2007.
“When I was introduced to the Takondwa Village Savings and Loan Association, we were completely hopeless. We as a family were clueless as to how we were going to pay for our children’s school fees,” she described. “I managed to educate my last daughter Edina through the local beer production business which I started using a loan from the VSLA,” Christina explained as she illustrated how the locally-made gin is distilled.
The FFBS approach has also brought a ray of hope to many families in the Kasungu communities like Christina’s that are food insecure.
“I am convinced beyond doubt that soya farming is the way out, and I will surely attend the farmers’ field and business school. From what I have learned so far, soya farming has a lot of benefits, unlike tobacco, which robbed us of our time and strength. Soya is easy to cultivate and does not need fertilizer, and it is fetching good prices at the local market. It is easy to negotiate selling price compared to tobacco. And, above all, soya is highly nutritious – see, I have many grandchildren, and they will no longer cry because of hunger,” Christina explained as her husband looked on in agreement.
“I am excited. I will use the soya proceeds to educate my grandchildren. I want to have educated grandchildren, because I admire our friends who have educated children who come to the village and take their parents to the city,” Christina continued.
“I have used the money from the last VSLA share out to lease one acre of land to cultivate the soya. I will surely have money to send my grandchildren to school. I failed to send my children to school, but I have another chance. I want my grandchildren, especially the girls, to have access to education,” she concluded as she started to sing a praise song.