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Farmers from Chinthebe village grew Irish potatoes but not for commercial purposes with an average household planting 0.2 acres. In 2011, Farm Concern International, FCI under the Domestic Markets Regional Programme funded by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation mobilized Chinthebe village farmers to form Commercial Villages (CV) as part of its Irish potato commercialization intervention.
Mgwirizano CPG Members selling Irish potatoes to Universal Industries
Chinthebe farmers formed Mgwirizano Commercial Producer Group (CPG) as part of the wider Commercial Village. FCI interventions included training farmers on commercialization and working with them to collectively find markets. Selling the potato produce to Universal Industries and Limbe Market traders Mgwirizano CPG realized USD3,500 from their potato farms in the year 2011.
In 2012, they increased the land under cultivation and notwithstanding the erratic rains experienced, the CPG realized USD 8,000 from their produce sales. The CPG widened their Irish potatoes market to Universal Industries and Mlodza border market. Gradually the cultivated acreage has in response to the market demand for Irish potatoes increased.
In 2013, FCI supported the Commercial Villages to secure market through trader-farmer partnerships and the CPG is expected to realize over USD 11,000 in one planting season. FCI has continued to encourage farmers to use weighing scales when selling Irish potatoes as opposed to the past when they packed their produce in sacks losing between 10 and 20 kgs per bag. This has helped the farmers realize more returns from their produce.
The lives of farmers from Mgwirizano CPG have changed for the better thanks to FCI’s interventions. Mr. Kaniva, one of the members, realized a record of $1000 from the sale of his Irish potatoes which he used to buy a tea estate. Mr Sawasawa, another member built a 4 bedroomed house from the income realized from Irish potatoes sales. Mgwirizano CPG members have been trained on Irish potato production, post harvest handling, marketing, cost benefit analysis and natural resource management. As a result, income from irish potato has gradually increased and 3000 trees were planted by the Group members to protect the environment.
FCI VISION :Commercialized smallholder communities with increased incomes for improved, stabilized & sustainable livelihoods in Africa and beyond.