How would you feel after investing your money, time and resources into Tobacco farming and then send it to the Auction floors for selling only to be told that you owe money for the transporter and the end of the day? –very bad indeed! Malawi’s economy has largely been dependent on Tobacco farming since time immemorial. It has changed life for some, but it has also destroyed the life of many. Many people have sweated only to have their fate decided by the poor prices, their tobacco bales being stolen on their way to the market and worse still their boys and daughters having an unstable education life because of the nomadic life of their parents in search of a paying tenant labor work in tobacco farms.
Sometimes you could have people with a static life right in their own village who could do their crop production right in their village but yielding nothing other than stories of how bad the prices were at the Auction Floors market. That is the case with a 36 year old, Mr. Lobry Armitage Zuze of Sitolo village, Sub-district of Lukwa in Kasungu Village. “I have been a Tobacco farmer since I was young and my parents too were farmers but nothing seem to moving,” said Mr. Lobry. Lobry who is married to Aliness Phiri with whom they have five children also said that while the prices of goods and services continue to rise, their life has remained the same for some time now.
However, Lobry and his wife are now boasting of being Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) members as it has proved to bring great impact to their family. “With the current prices of goods, it would have been very difficult for us to cultivate enough maize, tobacco, buy some livestock and even give some basic needs to the kids who we raise for our late relative if we were not in VSLA groups,” added Lobry who is the uncle of our JMV Scholar, Lucia Zawala. Lucia’s parents died while she was in primary school and so she had to move and live with her uncle Mr. Lobry.
JMV has given options to many people in Kasungu who have been crying foul for some time now. “Most of my fellow girls used to stay at home because of lack of boarding fees, school needs and necessities. But now when we ask each other about school, everyone says their parents are VSLA members and so they supplement what JMV is giving them because they are aware that JMV cannot do everything. It seems with VSLA lives are changing faster than expected,” noted the 13 year old and first born daughter Lucia Zawala.
Unlike in Tobacco farming where one would invest all his/her time and resources but yield little or nothing at the end, VSLA members only meet once in a week and this gives them time and opportunity to divide their time for other income generating activities. While in tobacco farming both parents and children dedicate most of their time in the farm, with VSLAs, children are being supported to go and learn.
The frustrations which Tobacco has been bringing to most farmers led to the decline of production just this year as most farmers preferred to grow crops other than this gold leaf. Many opted to save more and buy fertilizer for their maize and other crops. Join My Village supported them through the establishment of VSLA groups.