Since 2007, Tropha Estates has been growing, processing and selling macadamias, chillies and paprika on its two hub farms in northern Malawi, and sourcing produce from over 4,000 smallholder farmers for export.
Over the last three years, Tropha has provided paprika and chili seeds and limited training to farmers and purchased 540 tonnes of their produce, injecting more than $900,000 into the local community. Building on this success, Tropha is rolling out a new outgrower scheme for macadamia nuts. The outgrower scheme includes investing in a software package to track and monitor farmer training, productivity and sales, providing specialist support in the form of integrated pest management and GlobalGap traceability, and installing year-round irrigation in an area feeling the effects of climate change.
Weak infrastructure, basic technology, low-quality yields, and few commercial processing and marketing enterprises in the vicinity make it difficult for smallholder farmers to get crops to market. In an area prone to drought, farmers are also feeling the pressure of climate change and the need to adapt their farming methods to drier growing seasons and to diversify the crops they grow. These challenges - combined with persistent poverty, lack of access to financial services and inputs - all stand in the way of farmers moving into higher value crops and new markets.
Funds from an SDU partnership are being used to strengthen the chilli and paprika outgrower scheme and get its macadamia scheme off the ground, with the aim of growing to 1,000 farmers by 2020. A farmer database has been set up for traceability and internal auditing and conversations are underway with microfinance institutions about using this database to provide farmers with access to financial services. Training and capacity building will be supported by expanded extension services and demonstration plots that showcase new technologies. A consultant will be hired to assess the feasibility and advantages of adopting outgrower certification and opportunities for enhanced pest management.