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.

Visiting Beneficiaries – Report

From 24th November, 2011 up to date

So far we have managed to visit 15 clubs which consist of 157 beneficiaries. We are now remaining with 3 groups of about 34 beneficiaries.

In the fields we visited, all the farmers did their land preparation in time and they planted in mid November, but only a few seeds survived. Some of the fields look good though mainly those close to the rivers. Though we had poor or no rains almost all the farmers have done weeding. In other fields, farmers had to plant thrice.

We advised farmers to plant again when the rains start. They were also told not to apply fertilizer now. If they apply now they will earn nothing. So  to avoid losing these fertilizers they have to wait but those who have their gardens near liver banks can do so while relying on irrigation.

They were also encouraged to continue to take care of their fields so that when rains come they can plant. Farmers also complained that they have just wasted their seeds.

In conclusion, we have Balaka has started to receive good rains and we hope farmers will make use of these rains.

Henry Goster

Project Coordinator

Weeding period

The “Get Up Stand Up” Project Coordinator, Henry Goster and agronomist, John Martin visited Mvunguti group in Mpezeni village on 24 November where they met 8 farmers with the aim of strengthening the relationship between the project and farmers and also to see how they are working in their fields.

According to John Martin, this period farmers are weeding in their fields and out of all the members they have visited, only a few have not finished weeding.

The Coordinator said that most of the farmers have cultivated  2 Acres land.

However, some farmers are complaining that the two bags of fertilizers they have received are not enough.

In his response, the coordinator of the project said that it was difficult to give them more than that because some of the farmers have not yet finished paying back their 2010 loan to the project.
“Since prices of commodities are increasing every day, it was difficult for us to give them a chance to take more than two bags because the cost of each bag has also increased and some haven’t yet finished paying back last year’s loans. There is hope that next season they will have a choice to take as many bags as they want only if they will pay their loan in time,” said the Coordinator.

Get up Stand Up Coordinator starts visiting farmers

Set to go: Some of the beneficiaries of the project who has already received farm inputs

After distributing fertilizer to farmers, the Project Coordinator, Henry Goster and the agronomist John Martin have started to visit farmers today 24 November in their areas.The exercise will end on  15 December. The aim of the visit is to advise them on how they should apply the farm inputs they have received from the project.

16 groups have already received both the first and second applications. The remaining 4 groups are expected to receive fertilizer as soon as they finish to payback their previous loans. The following are groups expected to be visited:-
Group                                                                   Village
Mulandula                                                          Mulandula

Chilungamo                                                        Chipote

Mvunguti                                                            Mpezeni
Titukuke                                                              Kainga
Tisangalale                                                          Matola
Mwaiwanthu                                                     Nsamanyada
Khwalala                                                              Sungaleke
Limbikani                                                             Kanyumba aka
Chikhwamba                                                      Njeleka
Mpulula                                                               Mpulula
Kulyolyopela                                                      Chiuja
Saidi Sana                                                            Saidi sana
Nankhombe                                                       Petro
Tikondwere                                                        Nsaka
Madalitso                                                            Rabson
Umodzi                                                                Andiamo

Distribution of fertilizer starts

Get Up Stand Up Project has started distributing fertilisers to the beneficiaries today 21 November 2011. This marks the beginning of a new microcredit season.

The distribution follows the registration of the beneficiaries, which started in October.

Henry Bwanali, Responsible of Get Up Stand Up Project with one of the beneficiaries

Henry Bwanali, Responsible of Get Up Stand Up Project with one of the beneficiaries

25 tons of fertilizers will be given on loan to more than 200 beneficiaries, who are farmers from different villages around Balaka. The one responsible of Get Up Stand Up Mr. Henry Goster had a short meeting with all beneficiaries before the distribution encouraging them to keep the promise of returning the loan in time and wishing them a good harvest.

Hoping that it rains soon, the staff of Get Up Stand Up hope that this season will be as successful as the previous season. They [staff] are ready to work hand in hand with the groups of farmers, visiting them in their villages to monitor and advise them during the different stages of the agriculture season. The agriculture season includes: preparation of the land, planting, application of two kinds of fertilizers, weeding, harvest, and storing.

Communication Office

5oo bags of fertilizer arrived today

250 bags of Super Chitowe and 250 of Optican fertilizer has finally arrived at Andiamo for the Get up Stand up Project on 5 November, 2011.
The Bags were offloaded in the presence of the Agronomist John Martin, the Secretary and Accountant of the project Judith Kalambo. At last they  signed as witnesses that the bags were offloaded in their presence. In addition, the bags were kept at a good place to ensure full security of them.
John Martin said that the Project will start distributing the farm inputs next week.  “This time we are not carrying the fertilizer to the farmers because of fuel crisis which has also affected our operations,” added John Martin.