Diversifying income through bean farming
Income diversification is a key step to achieving food security in rural Africa. With diversification, farmers have a wide range of opportunities to sustain their livelihoods and to lead productive lives.
Ester Kadzakalowa, 38, from Khangale village, Traditional Authority Kabudula in Lilongwe district is one of the farmers who grows common beans. Ester is married with six children. Ester and her husband have been in the farming business since they got married some 20 years ago. Since then, tobacco has been their cash crop. For the past three years or so, tobacco prices on the auction floors have tumbled drastically and farmers are not getting a sufficient return for their work.
Ester has been growing beans for quite a while, but on a very small scale.
“I used to grow beans with other crops like maize and tobacco but on a really small piece of land and my harvest was generally small,” says Ester. “Things changed when I was targeted as a beneficiary in CPAR’s Farmer First project in 2009. Through this project, myself and other farmers from my village worked together through Khangale Farmer Field school where we were introduced to conservation agriculture as well as legume intercropping to help improve soil fertility as an alternative to chemical fertilizers.
Esther discusses her experience:
“I received three kg of common beans-Kholophethe variety, which I intercropped with maize on my two acre piece of land from which we managed to harvest 50kg in the first year. From this harvest, I put passed on 6kg to another farmer, reserved 10 kg for seed and used 40kg as food. This 2010-2011 growing season, I cultivated the beans on a pure stand to help with nitrogen fixation with an intention to plant maize in the next season on that land on a rotational basis and from this I have managed to harvest 200kg. Growing beans on a pure stand results in a large harvest and I now have enough seed for the next growing season. I have already reserved 20 kg for seed, 100 kg for home consumption and sold the remaining 80kg at K200/kg. I received K16, 000.00 (about $100) from selling the beans and with this, and now I am able to support my family’s needs.”
Growing beans is particularly important to households as a good source of protein, minerals and salts. It is also a good source of income. Today, beans have good market value and with the poor prices from tobacco crops which have been the main cash crop, beans can be equally a good source of income. CPAR’s Farmer’s First Project is encouraging and supporting small-scale farmers to develop their farming activities into a thriving sustainable businesses.