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.

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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.

Visiting Farmers

The cloud seems promising

As one way of making sure that farmers are practicing good farming methods and that the the farm inputs they are obtained are not sold, the project coordinator Henry Goster and the Agronomist John Martin, are visiting farmers in different areas.

According to the two, the situation in the fields is almost the same. Almost all the farmers have finished weeding as is evidenced in Chipote, Kainga, Njeleka, Mpulula, Kanyumba aka, and Nsaka Villages. The Coordinator has urged the farmers to continue taking care of their fields as they wait for the rains to apply fertilizer.

In Rabson Village and Nankhombe Village for example, the situation has gone worse as the rain is not coming and there is too much sun which has caused the maize to wilt. The Coordinator has advised the farmers to plant again when rains come.

The Coordinator also encouraged groups to continue conducting meetings like Petro group in Nankhombe village where they usually meet every Saturday at the village headman’s house.

Besides maize, It was also noticed that in some villages like Chipote and Njeleka the farmers are growing tomatoes and cotton.

The project has so far managed to visit 11 groups.