In 2008, the Clinton Development Initiative (CDI) introduced the Anchor Farm business development project in the Mchinji District of Malawi. At the time, smallholder farmers in Mchinji were struggling to make ends meet, following the decline of the tobacco industry, their main moneymaker. Alternative cash earning opportunities were not clear cut due to lack of sound agronomic advice and there were few or ineffective market linkages.
The Anchor Farm Project has brightened farmers’ futures by promoting soya beans as a food and cash crop. Prior to the project, smallholder farmers knew little about how best to grow soya beans and where to sell it for a profit. CDI addressed these value chain problems. For instance, in partnership with the leading seed company in Malawi, SeedCo, CDI began producing high-quality seed to address the problem of seed shortage. CDI also facilitated importation of high quality inoculants from the MEA Fertiliser company in Kenya to increase the productivity of the seed smallholders use. CDI further provided training for both farmers, organized in small groups of 10 to 20 members, and about 45 government field extension workers. Finally, CDI signed soya supply contracts with leading agro-processors and other large commodity buyers. The first supply contract was signed in 2009 with MALDECO Fisheries, the largest fish farming company in Malawi. In 2011, CDI signed another soya supply contract with Senwes Grainlink of South Africa, which also has offices in Malawi.
The Anchor Farm Project has received significant support from partners, such as the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) who provided a three-year grant starting in March 2010 to assist CDI in reaching out to 21,000 farmers by 2013. As of June 2012, CDI has registered about 15,000 farmers. The partnership with AGRA also includes increasing productivity of soya grown in rotation with maize through integrated soil fertility management (ISFM), conservation agriculture, and the planting of fertilizer trees.
Since the beginning of the Anchor Farm Project, at the household level, soya yields have doubled (from the baseline value of 0.7 t/ha to 1.3t/ha), maize yields have more than doubled (from a baseline value of 2.3t/ha to about 5.0 t/ha), and soya prices received by the smallholder farmers have increased dramatically. In 2009, prices being paid by traders at the village level were at MK45-50/kg (about $0.32-0.36/kg), but Anchor Farm Project farmers received a farm gate price of MK85/kg ($0.60/kg) as a result of the negotiated prices with the contract buyer. Due to the increasingly high demand for soya beans, in 2012, soya prices have been as high as MK190/kg (about $0.76/kg). As a result, farmers are earning dramatically higher incomes, which they can spend on sending their children to school, buying farm inputs such as seed and fertilizer, and improving their homes with burnt brick and iron roofs. Some of them have even invested in non-farm businesses such as grocery stores. The project communities are undergoing an economic revolution!
The work we have done through the Anchor Farm Project demonstrates to the Malawi government that soya has a lot of potential for poverty and hunger reduction. The achievements of CDI’s Anchor Farm Project have been widely recognized by the Ministry of Agriculture and many other stakeholders. President Joyce Banda, who has recently instituted the Presidential Initiative on Poverty and Hunger Reduction, has recognized soya beans as a priority commodity, and has co-opted CDI as one of the technical advisors to the Presidential Initiative on legumes.
I joined the Clinton Foundation on June 2, 2007, and since then I have learned so much through the Foundation and its partners, especially AGRA. I appreciate that the Anchor Farm project will be here for a long time (phase 1 is ten years!) and I look forward to seeing its continued impact on the region.