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Farmers from Mitumbiri Commercial Village in the Southern Region of Malawi, produced approximately 9 MT during the June to September, 2011 winter season. This was as a result of understanding market requirements through Village Business Forums (VBF) with traders.

Business has always been a cut-throat affair where it is common for traders to withhold vital market information on sourcing and pricing just to stay ahead of the competition. Individualism is a dominant business culture among traders in Malawi, worsening according to the seasons and instability of perishable commodities. Only tight circles of friends share information and give each other preference when it comes to sourcing commodities in times of scarcity.

On the other hand, farmers are often challenged about finding markets and transporting produce. They generally mistrust middlemen or traders and report feeling desperate, vulnerable and ignorant when it comes to securing a sale. The net effect of these bad relations between farmers and traders is inefficiencies in food supply chains, wastage and depressed incomes for the rural community.

Mr. Edward Frackson, 33, has been an onion trader for nine years at Limbe market, Blantyre, Malawi.

“Before we interacted with Farm Concern International (FCI), we used to work as individuals and did not see anything wrong with it. We thought successful business is all about hiding information from colleagues. However, this denied us access to business services that could enhance our growth,” says Mr. Frackson.

Today, onion traders and farmers testify to the transformation of previously uncertain relationships to a point where there is mutual trust and respect among them. The transformation has seen traders share crucial information such as quality, prices etc. and hire a vehicle together thereby reducing their costs. Most importantly, the traders value the relationships that has been built between themselves and farmers. Through telephone conservations, traders arrange for field trips and go directly to where the commodities are located which was uncommon before the FCI intervention. Through frequent trader-farmer forums, each party learns what the other needs.

Mr. Frackson says an additional benefit is the improvements in his public speaking skills and being able to relay usable information on market and quality specifications to farmers. He never believed that he too could transform another person’s life by sharing knowledge and information. This is what inspired Mitumbiri Commercial Village farmers to grow quality onions for the very first time in their lives.

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FCI VISION :Commercialized smallholder communities with increased incomes for improved, stabilized & sustainable livelihoods in Africa and beyond.