For many farmers in Malawi, low productivity is an important cause of low incomes. However farmers also lack the incentives and knowledge to start production of income-bringing products, such as fish or honey. Market access is also a problem. Since few farmers are organized, their capacity to negotiate good and stable prices is weakened. Lack of storage space and poor opportunities for further refinement of products are other factors that make it difficult for farmers to find stable sources of income.
Alternative income sources are an important way out of rural poverty. To increase the income of small-scale farmers, the Development Fund seeks to increase their productivity, so they gain a small surplus they can sell. We facilitate the production of income-generating plants and other agricultural products. Livestock may become an important source of income for farmers, as may fish or honey. These products that do not demand much space and may be produced even on small fields. Organizing farmers is another priority. As part of a larger group, they stand a better chance of obtaining higher and more stable prices and simpler market access. Organization also increases the opportunities for simple refinement of agricultural products. The Development Fund therefore supports initiatives to strengthen farmers’ organizations. We also support the establishment of village-level savings and loan groups. With the support of such groups it is simpler for farmers to take out small loans to get started with income-bringing activities. This – along with other opportunities for access to credit – is of particular importance for women.
Young people in Malawi face a number of challenges. Employment opportunities are limited; many girls, in particular, drop out of school at an early age. Opportunities for vocational training are few, and young people who have once dropped out of the education system discover that the way back in again is long. To strengthen the future prospects of young people, the Development Fund helps to organize them – particularly the girls – in “Young Women Can” clubs. In these clubs, the girls themselves work to improve their access to education, through consciousness raising – among the young people themselves, in their families, communities, schools, and to local authorities. The clubs allow the girls to start their own savings and loan groups, and offer access to simple business management courses, so they, together or alone, can start small companies. An increasing number of boys participate in these clubs, joining the work to strengthen young people’s rights and employment prospects in the future.