With agriculture being a source of income for more than 85% of the Malawian population, it has been a key sub-sector World University Service of Canada (WUSC) focuses on. Prince Kapondamgaga, Chief Executive Officer for Farmers Union of Malawi, WUSC’s partner for 13 years, reflects on how Uniterra Program jointly led by WUSC and the International Centre for Studies and Cooperation (CECI) is helping small farmers in Malawi. 

Kapondamgaga commends Uniterra for building the capacity of farmers’ associations because many farmers are not educated enough to think critically. Uniterra volunteers have helped small farmers in improving agricultural practices and organisational capacity so they can actively participate in the value chain.

Specifically, Dr. Anne Drews, a Uniterra volunteer, helped members of Shire Highlands Milk Producers Association (SHMPA) in the southern region of Malawi improve the health of their cattle and hygiene of their milk.
Prince Kapondamgaga, Chief Executive Officer for Farmers Union of Malawi. ©Arnaud Deharte
Kapondamgaga also appreciates that Uniterra uses an inclusive approach whereby volunteers engage farmers in determining what they want and help them to achieve it. Uniterra works alongside farmers instead of imposing goals that may not necessarily be achieved. He gives an example of how Uniterra volunteers worked with Malawian farmers to develop strategic plans for farming paprika, poultry and green legumes.

“I strongly believe that WUSC is a very strategic partner especially in exchanging lessons and technical assistance that comes in to support institutions— not to make them dependent but to support their independence,” Kapondamgaga said.

Under the Uniterra 3 program, WUSC is working with farmers in the tea sector to improve farm productivity and conditions for workers. Kapondamgaga hopes that the experience working in the dairy sector will facilitate the work with tea growers.

Kapondamgaga sees high loan interest rate (currently at 42 per cent) as a hindrance to smallholder farmers because it makes it hard for them to access funds to buy quality seeds, fertilizers and modern farming equipment. However, he is confident that expertise from Uniterra volunteers can bring alternative approaches.

“The best way to help institutions is not to give them finances, but to help them develop a long-term plan of where they want to be in five years and support that process,” said Kapondamgaga.