Meet John Martin, the Agronomist

The name John Martin is not new to those who read news on tidzala blog about “Get Up Stand Up Project”. John comes from Mulandula Village in Group Village Headman, Toleza in Balaka.

John MArtin (left)

He has been working at Andiamo Youth Cooperative Trust (AYCT) in Agriculture section of the Cooperative. He started with Chimanga Project in 2002, a project which was being funded by Italian based organization RC Ricercae Cooperazione Associazione Notai Di Bergamo Onlus where he was working as a field assistant.

“That time we were only working with Andiamo workers helping them with farming skills and giving them farm inputs loans before we started working with farmers in surrounding villages. My job up to now is to visit fields of our beneficiaries, strengthen the relationship between farmers and the project and also reporting to the Project Coordinator on how the situation is in the fields.”

John worked with Chimanga Project for 3 years and 6 months before the project operations in the country expired. After AYCT noticed his dedication, effort and his experience in agricultural activities, John was asked to work with Get Up Stand Up project as an agronomist.

John Martin a father of two, says that although he did not go to college to acquire skills in farming after he failed his Form 4 Exams, the period he worked with Chimanga Project helped him to have enough skills and knowledge in farming different types of crops including local and hybrid seeds.

Interview with Henry Goster

Project Coordinator Henry Goster

The period for paying back the loans, which farmers got from Get Up stand Up Project is here. Our office caught up with the Project Coordinator, Henry Goster to find out the situation in the fields and their expectation on the collection of the loans.

Can you shed more light on the situation in the fields?
The situation out there is not much good due to erratic rains that affected most parts of the country and areas around Balaka District. According to what we observed during the time we were inspecting fields of 17 groups starting from 24thNovember 2011, majority of our beneficiaries will not harvest enough as it was expected although they tried to follow all the steps of farming.

Will these farmers then manage to pay back the loan?
We have been receiving letters from our beneficiaries asking us to allow them to start paying back the loan in May as some of these farmers also grew cash crops like tobacco, cotton, tomatoes and millet, and markets for these crops except tobacco are not opened. The farmers have promised us that they will pay back as soon as they sell their produce.

Last year the project had 20 groups and now we have seen that the number of groups has been reduced to 17. Can you explain why this has happened?
It’s true that we reduced the number of groups from 20 to 17. This is so because some groups delayed in paying back the loans. They were asked to start paying back the loans from April to August but some failed to give us back the loan so that we could purchase the farm inputs for them in time. We then decided to work with only those who finished paying and those who showed the heart to promote the project for their own good.

What has been the relationship like between the project and farmers since the project started?
Our relationship has been good ever since the project was started and we have been conducting meetings with them so that we can share our views. I believe this has also strengthened our relationship.

Since you were appointed the project coordinator for “Get up Stand Up”, what can you say about the project?
It’s a lifesaving project and Malawi being a country whose people depend on farming, farmers are now able to get the farm inputs loan from the project and pay as they get without any interest. This is for me the first time I see this happening. I have seen that the project is receiving support from farmers, the cooperative and also our friends from Italy.

How do you look at the project’s future?
The project will have a good future only if farmers will not let us down and the support we are receiving from all stakeholders continues as it is now and there are also areas which need much support. One of these areas is transport. For us to make regular visit to farmers we need to have good transport like motorcycles. If this problem can be solved, I can assure you that this project will be the best project the cooperative has ever had.

Farmers blame climate change

Some farmers in most parts of Balaka have cried foul over the sudden change of climate in the district. One of the farmers, Eyes Dilli expressed his sadness when Get Up Stand Up Project Coordinator, Henry Goster visited his maize field which is in Nankhombe Village.  Dilli 64, said that although he has replanted five times in his maize field this year due to erratic rains, he is very worried that this year he will not harvest as he expected.

Dilli (left) with Goster during the visit

“Although I go to work, I depend on farming since I have a big family to look after but because of the change of weather, it seems we will have low yields this year,” said Dilli.

The Project Coordinator said that now that rain has started coming again, there is hope that some farmers may get something out of their fields.

During the visit, the Coordinator also inspected Dilli’s cotton field. Dill belongs to the Andiamo group.

In the Dilli’s family, there are  thirteen members. These include grandchildren. He works as a Chief guard at Andiamo Youth Cooperative Trust.

Get Up Stand Up in HIV/AIDS sensitization mission

A micro credit project of agriculture at Andiamo Youth Cooperative Trust, Get up Stand Up will on March 11 together with Jack Edward from Tinyadire Moyo Project have a HIV/AIDS sensitization meeting with farmers in Petro village.

Working together in HIV/AIDS sensitization

According to the Project Coordinator of Get Up Stand Up, Henry Goster, the meeting has been organized with the aim of sensitizing farmers on the dangers of HIV/AIDS and on how they can live positively with the virus.

Jack Edward who tested positive some years ago but still live a healthy and happy life, will share his life story with farmers during the meeting.

Orizzonte Malawi bought a bicycle for Edward to make his movement easier to surrounding villages.

Climate change affects farmers

as some areas are receiving heavy rains

Farmers have cried foul with the change of climate which according to them has affected their farming activities. Farmers in Tisangalare group which is in Matola Village, Balaka, complained that all their efforts are in vain.

The farmers say they planted early in October last year but because of drought, their plants dried up.

One of the farmers Dickson Malunga said that he has lost all his plants which he planted in October and not only that but also fertilizers since he applied the first application in November. Dickson Malunga is planting again with hope that the coming of rain will normalise, but he is not sure where he will get the fertilizers.

Other farmers in the group are planting again. If rains continue to come, they will apply fertilizer.

Farmers who have grow cash crops like cotton, tobacco and tomatoes are also complaining that the rains will affect the time they have to bring their produce to the market.

Farmers sensitization on fertilizer application

Chilungamo is a group consists of 12 members in Chipote village. Although there were some problems which they were facing with plants germination, they planted their maize.

Weeding has been done in most of the fields. Only 3 beneficiaries have not yet applied fertilizer. These 3 farmers removed all their plants because were of stunted growth so they decided to replant.

With good rains which came on 11/01/2012, all plants have germinated well. Some of the beneficiaries have already applied CHITOWE. For those who did not mix CHITOWE and CAN, were advised to apply CAN after 3 weeks and Agronomist, John Martin advised them to make sure that their fields are free from weeds.

Due to climate change, these farmers also had another option of planting a cash crop which is cotton. Others also planted tomato and groundnuts.

In this village fields looks promising if rain continues to come they will have a good harvest.

Signs of hunger in Saidi Sani Village

There is fear that  people in Saidi Sani village will face hunger if rain will not come in few days coming. A visit on 5 January by the coordinator of Get Up Stand Up Project, Henry Goster can reveal.

No rain: many fields has dried up

Farmers in Saidi Sani village planted with the first rains in November but since that time rains haven’t come and this has caused all the crops in their fields to wilt. One of the affected members of group, Tchaston Gwetsani has said that he will have to replant but his only worry is that he has lost his fertilizer he obtained from the project because he applied it already in his one Acre field.

Mary Matebule is also one of the farmers whose field has been affected but she said she will not remove her crops because she has already applied fertilizers.

Said Sani is a group of 10 members who grow different type of crops.

Henry Goster said that his office will look into the matter on how they can help the farmers who have been affected by the dry spell which has also affected some of the villages in Balaka District.