This has been an occasional blog – exactly two years since I was last in Malawi and two years since my last blog post. I hope to make up for that over the next few weeks.
Hand painted sign welcoming everyone to our premises. Nearly all our work is now delivered through Modern Farming Technology, our social enterprise company.
It was great to see that our staff team haven’t been standing still. This huge sign greeted me as I arrived at our office and then I had a tour of the office, greenhouses, packing house and chill store – all new since I was last here. It has been humbling and encouraging to see the staff team (now 20 people) empowered and enthusiastic and happy to push on with the work while the whole world has been going through such a crazy time.
The office buzzed with activity all day – customers enquiring about greenhouses and irrigation pumps and others wanting to buy the “best tomatoes and peppers in Malawi” (their words)
I arrived on Wednesday afternoon and we started work straight away. It’s a five hour journey by car to Mzuzu and we stopped on the way to buy potatoes – lots of them. We are exploring the potential for improving potato growing in Malawi and are working with a Scottish seed potato company with a view to exporting high quality seed to supply our farmers who have irrigation pumps. This is no simple process: we need to bring a whole container of 25 tonnes; we need approval from the Malawi Department of Agriculture to bring new varieties; we need to train the farmers to grow them well; and then we need to be able to sell the 150 tonnes that we will produce.
Potatoes in Malawi are sold by the pail so we bought a pail of each of two varieties
Local potatoes are low quality and small in size
We will now send pictures of these, inside and out, to the seed company to help them recommend appropriate new varieties for us to try. Interestingly, potatoes in Malawi are called “Irish potatoes” (to distinguish them from sweet potatoes). I guess that they were introduced by Irish missionaries, probably in the 19th century. The sign the women had is one that I have often seen in Malawi – it read “Local Irish potatoes”.
We are on a mission to drive up household incomes in Malawi through providing Modern Farming Technology. Sometimes this is a solar chill store or irrigation pump, other times it’s just the humble potato. It doesn’t matter – both have the power to increase the incomes of farmers who don’t need aid, just some help with development.