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Farm Radio Weekly

Malawi: Farmers use Mandela cocks to dry and preserve groundnuts (by Mark Ndipita, for Farm Radio Weekly)

Linesi Banda tries to pick up a sack of unshelled groundnuts at her home in Chiosya, a village 19 kilometres north of Kamwendo trading centre. But the sack is too heavy. She calls her husband to help her carry it out of the house. Together, they load the sack on their bicycle and take it to Kamwendo market.

Groundnuts are always in high demand at this market in Mchinji district, 100 kilometres west of Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe.

Mrs. Banda started growing groundnuts on her two hectare plot in 1995. But as time went by, she wanted to quit. She received very low prices for her poor quality, ungraded groundnuts. Post-harvest losses and infection with aflatoxin ate up her profit.

Mrs. Banda says: “Before 2010. I did not know how to harvest, dry, grade or store my groundnuts, and that was why I was bringing poor quality [produce] to the market.”

She learnt about good management practices in 2010 at a field day organized by Farm Radio Trust and government extension workers, as part of an Irish Aid project. She explains: “I was impressed to learn from other farmers who were drying groundnuts using a Mandela cock in order to avoid aflatoxin [and] loss of weight, and for protection from rain, sun and animals.”

In the Mandela cock method, farmers stack groundnut stalks in a circle on top of a platform, with the pods facing upwards. This allows the pods to dry should they get wet, saving them from aflatoxin infection and other damage.

George Kasokola is the agricultural extension worker for the Kamwendo area. He says: “Aflatoxin was the biggest problem groundnut farmers were facing, but now there is a lot of awareness. We are encouraging farmers through field days and radio to protect the crop – from harvesting, drying, and grading up to storage.”

Scolasitika Six is a groundnut farmer from nearby Kumangilira who also attended the field day. She says: “I learnt many things, including [the] Mandela cock. We were advised to listen to Farm Radio Trust radio programs from Mudzi Wathu community radio and other radio stations, in order to learn more on groundnut farming.”

Mrs. Banda also listened to the radio programs with keen interest. She first used a Mandela cock to dry her groundnut harvest in 2011. She says: “My groundnuts that year had less aflatoxin, and the weight was amazing. I also observed less post-harvest loss because rats, termites and other livestock failed to eat the pods.”

Elasimo Ali is another groundnut farmer who learnt best practices for growing groundnuts by listening to the radio. He says, “With the Mandela cock, I am able to protect my produce and make profits from [only] two acres.”

Now that she is earning a profit, Mrs. Banda is better able to support her family. She says, “Before, I used to earn [$50 U.S.] in a year on [two hectares], but now I get [$800 U.S.] because I always sell high quality groundnuts. I am now able to send my children to school and I have managed to build a house.”

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