We instigated a Subsistence Farming Project in Malawi in 2005.
We prepare Farm Packs, comprising essential agricultural inputs - seeds, fertilizers and basic tools - for distribution to emergent subsistence farmers in rural areas as a means of assisting them to provide sufficient produce to feed their families.
Many subsistence farmers produce only a single crop a year. In view of this, we encourage Winter cropping, providing seeds in order that these farmers and their families need not rely on hand-outs, especially during lean times.
We operate this very necessary project in partnership with that country's Department of Agriculture, together with a number of local authorities, assisting in the selection, training and monitoring of the beneficiaries. Our Subsistence Farming Project currently supports as many as 2 000 beneficiaries every year.
Given the resounding success of this programme, we were fortunate to receive grant funding from the Embassy of Japan in Malawi in 2016 for the implementation of two irrigation schemes, designed to assist as many as 200 subsistence farmers. These schemes are located in Nankuyu and Sagonja.
The year 2017 saw the Subsistence Farming Project's introduction in South Africa. Recognising that many rural households had access to land and a degree of farming experience, and comprehending the decline in traditional farming here, we opted to re-ignite the concept as a means of encouraging people to remain on the land instead of migrating to urban areas.
The system adopted operates as follows:
- Certain families in targeted areas have been allocated land for grazing and planting by their Chiefs;
- We provide a co-ordination role, working with both the Chiefs and people interested in cultivating their land. Many have previous subsistence or even commercial farm experience, but a lack of funds has seen the demise of their subsistence activities;
- Beneficiaries are determined by the available inputs - seed and fertilizer. Each recipient is obliged to pay a fee to cover the diesel and tractor driver costs. This was necessary for several reasons - most importantly:
- We strive to ensure people are invested in the project, meaning they will not shirk their responsibilities at the time of weeding and harvesting;
- We aim to move beyond the provision of hand-outs, a state where things are provided, to encouraging productive and proactive behaviour by beneficiaries of assistance.
- Where multiple beneficiaries are in close proximity to one another, an obligation exists for them to provide collective assistance with regarding to weeding and harvesting activities.
During the project's first year of operation - treated as a pilot phase - we assisted 156 beneficiaries in terms of planting a little under 200 hectares of maize. Yields would have been significant, but for a shortage of inputs to ensure the correct levels of individual field fertilization.
We have since increased tractor numbers, owning four ourselves and having in place an agreement with a number of local tractor owners, enabling us to draw on their services.
The 2019/2020 season has seen our support for some 700 beneficiaries.