The Ekari Cluster in Malawi was launched earlier this year. In a poverty stricken area with no access to farm markets, the members of the community decided to share their strengths and work together to bring change. One of its leaders, SHORA KAULUKA shares their story.
Tell us about the Cluster.
Ekari Cluster is located in Thyolo District in the southern region of Malawi. We came together to restore the self-confidence of the community, develop resilience against economic challenges and shape our future. We achieve this by promoting unity among members, encouraging collective efforts, and sharing our strengths, challenges and skills.
We believe that change starts when people think positively and so we encourage the community to start with small steps, even in difficult times. This way, people can move from focusing on challenges to making progress.
What’s the biggest challenge in the community?
Thyolo District has a high poverty rate, mainly because there is not enough land for farming. This scarcity has led to a decline in crop production. As a result, we have limited access to markets for our farm produce and miss out on opportunities for adding value to our agricultural activities for community members.
What did you decide to do to overcome this challenge?
After sharing wisdom and ideas on how to overcome poverty, the Cluster formed a cooperative of groundnut farmers. The aim of this cooperative is to build and develop our capacity to provide effective services so that we can increase the social and economic development of our community and the nation as a whole. With a current membership of 137 individuals, the cooperative is making strides in improving access to the groundnut markets. Additionally, it is creating employment opportunities for farmers through the production and sale of cooking oil.
Interesting! Why Groundnuts?
Groundnuts are the most widely cultivated legume in Malawi and account for 25% of the income of smallholder farmers. They are also rich in protein and vitamins and are affordable to the average household.
Groundnut farming also improves the soil quality by fixing nitrogen back into the soil, a benefit that is becoming increasingly important given the rising prices for chemical fertilizers across the world.
Brilliant! What are your hopes for the future?
The Cluster has big plans ahead! We hope to build a cooking oil factory to create more employment and serve more people. We also hope to increase our membership base, establish some wholesale shops and become registered with the Malawi Bureau of Standards so that we can scale higher and serve the whole nation! We believe that we can achieve all this by continuing to adopt the Arukah way of connecting, informing, influencing and leading.
Our oldest Cluster in India recently celebrated their 15th anniversary, read more here