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Grant update: Supporting small farmers in Malawi

Updated: Jul 9, 2020

Members of the Manyamula COMSIP Cooperative first came together to fight against the exploitation of banks who were charging high interest rates with short repayment periods. Over the last nine years, they have supported each other in entrepreneurial activities and low-interest loan opportunities. (Read Sylvester’s story here).

Now, the Cooperative is expanding its programs to combat another form of exploitation.

Many of the members are farmers. And like farmers around the world and across the generations, they lose significant percentages of their profit to intermediary traders. “Farmers’ sweat has not profited them,” writes Canaan Gondwe, Manyamula COMSIP Cooperative leader.

Building a factory

In November, Spirit in Action, along with Sumar Lakhani Foundation, awarded the Cooperative a grant to construct a local Oil Factory. The Cooperative’s warehouse and the new oil machines will help the farmers get much better prices for their soybean, sunflower, and groundnut (peanut) crops.

Canaan Gondwe poses with the oil expeller.

For the machinery, Canaan and his team members drove ten hours south to Blantyre. The high tech agribusiness shop there was the closest place to get the oil press expeller and filter they wanted.

As of this month, the machines are being safely stored in the Cooperative’s warehouse while the new building is being constructed. The oil press house will have separate rooms for the pressing and filtering, packaging, and by-product storage.

Constructing a new building using local bricks and sand.

Planting season!

Quality sunflower oil is in high demand in Malawi and the by-product seed cake is used for animal feed. In order to have enough raw material to press in their new machines, the Cooperative planted a 12 acre sunflower farm. They also distributed sunflower seeds to 30 Cooperative members. When the seeds are ready for harvest, they will collect them manually and dry the seeds before removing them from the pods.

This is the just the first update from Canaan on this exciting project, which has so much potential to change the lives of these farmers! Canaan always ends his letters in a way that lifts my spirits, “With Cooperative regards, Canaan Gondwe.”

Sunflower plants on the Cooperative’s farm.

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