The Times report on how farmers in Mfuwe are earning a living from growing chillies. What started as a simple campaign to scare away elephants from crop fields, is now turning into a viable commercial farming activity for several Mfuwe residents. Excerpt:
....Peasant farmer Boniface Mbao, 63, first planted the hot spice crop in 2006. By the end of the last season, he had managed to raise enough to buy iron sheets, household goods, and even built a standard house on his farm.
“I have bought a big radio cassette, 10 iron sheets, and even this house I have built out of the same money,” Mbao told this writer at his farm in Chitilila area. I started picking (harvesting) this chilli sometime in February this year, and even now I am still picking. It is very profitable, more profitable than any crop I have grown before. I sell at K7,000 per kilogramme,” he says.
Mr Mbao is one of the many residents in the tourism resort town who are now working their way out of grinding poverty on the back of well-paying returns from growing chilli, thanks to the South Luangwa Conservation Society (SLCS), a local community-based natural resource conservation project, supporting residents to find alternative livelihoods to poaching and snaring of wildlife in the area.
Small-holder chilli growers like Mr Mbao often group themselves in small teams of up to 20 people to ensure effective crop output and better bargaining. Through such groups, the farmers are able to receive free extension services on the production process of chilli as well as expert knowledge on various income generating activities that they could venture into.
The SLCS also helps in finding a ready market to purchase the crop from the peasant farmers. At the moment, measures are being put in place to ensure that Mfuwe chilli is branded with its own logo, while a market of up to six tonnes of chilli per year has already been secured....
Like bee powered development, it appears the key constraint facing many rural dwellers is "market discovery". There are many good opportunities for income creation in rural areas, but locals are just not aware of the opportunities or they struggle with discovering the profitable markets. We have chronicled many on these opportunities on this site from handicrafts to jewellery to mushrooms. The list is endless. Although organisations like SLCS are doing their bit to unlock the potential that exists, I think our government can learn from what the Namibian government has been doing with village tourism. It can take a more proactive role at the local level working with communities to identify their local assets and solving the coordination and "market discovery" failures that exist. These in my view are among the strongest binding constraints at the local level, and overcoming them probably involves very little expendire compared to reducing fuel prices or providing pots of loans. Its just about filling in the knowledge gap.