In Malawi, agriculture is mostly rain-fed. This reliance on one growing season and erratic rainfall results in unreliable yields and quality of produce.
This is compounded by limited options for post-harvest storage due, in part, to low rural electrification rates, resulting in losses of at least 30% of produce.
The project seeks to address these challenges by demonstrating the viability of an off-grid full value chain business model for the benefit of women smallholder farmers. PAC (Practical Action Consulting), in partnership with African Mini Grids (“AMG”) and Modern Farming Technologies (“MFT”), plan to develop a sustainable, vertically integrated, full value chain business model for agriculture.
The approach includes two main components: support to women farmers in the form of capacity development and access to affordable greenhouses with solar drip irrigation systems; and the development of a solar powered chill plant that increases the quantity and quality of produce available to be sold and opens up access to formal markets. As well as increasing productivity and quality of produce, the project aims to empower women, assisting them overcome constraints to land access (because greenhouses require little land), gain access to productive assets and develop new skills and confidence.
Lastly, the project aims to use renewable energy to unlock new local markets for horticultural produce that provide rural communities with new opportunities for income and livelihoods. MFT have executed a similar model in the urban setting of Mzuzu, and now want to demonstrate it in an off-grid environment within rural Northern Malawi. They will work with the Ujazi Cultural Conservation Group, ad women’s co-operative located at Chintheche in Nhkata Bay District.