We Effect’s sustainable cotton project transforms lives in Malawi

Memory Mwanza with her daughter
Memory Mwanza with her daughter
“I never thought I would own a decent house in my life. Life has been challenging. But I see a bright future ahead.”

These are the words of Memory Mwanza, a smallholder cotton farmer located in Mangochi district, in the eastern part of Malawi.

Being an ardent maize farmer for most of her life, she decided to try growing cotton in the 2017/18 growing season. “Maybe cotton can transform my life,” she thought. However, things did not turn out the way she wished. Memory didn’t get a penny from her cotton field as she didn’t have enough information and she did not produce the expected yield.

She despaired for the time, money, and energy she had invested in the failed cotton field. She thought this was the worst decision a 40-year-old woman could have ever made. “At least I could have gotten something from Maize” she thought.

Memory and the Sustainable Cotton Project Officer tour her new house

With such an experience, Memory told herself she would never be part of cotton production in her life again. She was determined to continue maize production even if she was getting little return on her investment. Looking at other cotton farmers in the same year in her area, Memory was even more convinced that she made the right decision because her neighbours also had very poor yields, despite their efforts.

However, in the 2019/20 growing season Memory met Khadija Injesi a Sustainable Cotton Project Officer in Namkumba Extension Planning Area (EPA). Khadija was engaged by We Effect Malawi’s partner organisation, African Institute of Corporate Citizenship’s (AICC) to do campaign activities for growing better cotton using sustainable agricultural land management practices to increase cotton quality and production. Even though Memory had resolved never to hear anything regarding cotton production again, she decided to listen to this campaign.

After asking for more information from Khadija, Memory slowly became convinced that she may have been wrong about growing cotton. Memory’s inquisitiveness prompted Khadija to appoint her to host one of the demonstration sites. She was introduced to improved seeds, better cotton management activities as well as sustainable agricultural practices. Memory replicated whatever she was learning at the demonstration site in her own field.

To her amazement, she managed to harvest 1,667 kilograms from her 2-acre land. From her produce, she received MK 600,000.00, an amount she had never imagined having in her entire life. From this money, Memory finished the construction of her house, she bought inputs for the next growing season, and she paid school fees for her high school going daughter. Today, Memory is a model farmer and an inspiration to other women; she is also a study circle organizer under the Sustainable Cotton Project.

The Sustainable Cotton for Women and Youth Empowerment in Southern Africa project is funded by Sida/Embassy of Sweden in Addis Ababa and implemented by We Effect in Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.