Written by Patseni Mauka
If you have ever been constipated like me, you know that it’s a very difficult experience. It was more difficult for Mapwiya who gatecrashed a party some years ago. Mapwiya had never been to a party with lots of food and drinks like this one. He devoured everything on the menu without being mindful of possible results of endless munching of food.
After the party, happy and satisfied Mapwiya returned home. As usual, early in the morning he visited the toilet. Try is he might, he couldn’t get the necessary relief. Nothing was happening from his bottom. He tried to fart to at least get some gases out. It didn’t work. He made several trips to the toilet without success. Tired and exhausted, he started crying; kano ndikanangonya pang’ono, kano ndikanongophwisa ndinakapeza moyo ine! Such is the agony when you get constipated.
Malawi is blessed with many types of fruits and other agricultural produce. The fruit season is the period when I usually get constipated. We have plenty of fruits and sometimes eat too much to avoid wasting. The end result is similar to what Mapwiya experienced, excruciating constipation. Sadly, many fruits still get wasted because at the pick of the season, we can’t manage to consume all. We mainly eat raw fruits. Processing for value-added products from our agricultural produce is not well developed.
Constipation is a small problem compared to the tremendous waste of agricultural produce. Markets are littered with thousands of tonnes of decayed perishable agricultural produce which rots before customers can buy. In many cases, rather than lose them to decomposition, farmers sell all their produce cheaply.
As reported by the Nation newspaper, a research by Small and Medium Enterprises Development Institute (Smedi), says Malawi loses almost K5 billion annually in the leather industry due to lack of proper processing machinery to add value to local leather products. It also reported that currently, Malawi uses over $101 million (about K70 billion) to import leather-related products into the country. The solution to all this waste is investment in value addition.
Value addition is the process that transforms the raw agricultural product into something new through packaging, processing, cooling, drying, extracting, and other processes that change a product from its original raw form. As a result of this transformation, the customer base of a product and revenue sources for the producer are expanded.
Often, this involves building processing plants in the producers’ geographical regions to process locally produced crops or animals. It may also involve building the processing plant wherever it is most feasible and profitable, such as closer to where the final products will be marketed.
Malawi being an agriculture based economy, should do better in promoting value added agriculture. The government needs to take a leading role by heavily investing in value addition. The private sector has been calling for investment in value addition for some time. Recently the Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI) urged players in the agriculture sector to focus on value addition to accelerate economic transformation. MCCCI organized the 15th National Agriculture Fair in Blantyre this year with the theme, Access to Finance, Value Addition and Markets: Key to Agri-based Industrialization.
In the same private sector, businessperson and owner of Frank and T Investments, Thom Njirika has reportedly taken an initiative in value addition. He is processing soya beans into cooking oil branded Rising Star, which is currently available on the market at his plant along Chileka road. He buys soya beans from local farmers nationwide and process them into cooking oil. He is currently producing between 16 000 and 17 000 litres of cooking oil per day.
Kwithu Kitchen Cooperative Society, a Mzuzu-based food processing cooperative also adds value to agricultural products. The group reportedly processes fresh tomatoes, puts them in cans and sells in various outlets in Mzuzu. The concept of Kwithu Kitchen began in 2010 after noting high rates of tomato wastage in Mzuzu.
In 2016, United States African Development Foundation (USadf) reportedly gave Kwithu Kitchen a grant of S$80 000 (about K55 million) to enhance the cooperative’s business and farming activities. Imagine what the billions of Kwachas that we lose to corruption would do to change the whole face of value addition in Malawi. The 145 million Kwacha, which President Mutharika accepted as a ‘thank you’ from an unscrupulous businessman, is almost three times the grant given to Kwithu Kitchen.
Among the presidential candidates for next year’s elections, Dr. Saulos Chilima of UTM is the only one who has articulated his vision of factories for value addition very well. Chilima has challenged Malawians to believe that we can have high quality products like juice and other things from our own farm produce.
He has promised to bring factories to all areas with high agricultural produce like Jenda in Mzimba, Mulanje, Thyolo, Salima, Mwanza and many other areas around the country. Chilima says value addition industries and other sectors will be part of the job creation of the 1 million jobs that UTM has promised within the first year of its administration. This is the kind of leadership that the country needs.