Lilongwe — Self Help Africa (SHA), an international Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) which works to improve livelihoods of farmers in Malawi has awarded two Malawians with scholarships to train in sustainable farming in England, UK.
The two, who left on Friday at Kamuzu International Airport, will undergo a 10-week training session at Harper Adams University in Edgmond, Shropshire, England under the Marshal Papworth Scholarship Programme.
Speaking in an interview before departure, Knight Chambalika Mhango, 65, from Chikombwe Village in T.A. Mwilang'ombe in Karonga, expressed excitement with the scholarship award, saying it was a rare opportunity that will transform him and the farmers he works with.
"I never dreamt that I would fly out of the country, this is unbelievable. I am so happy. Ever since I started farming in 1986, I never thought that one day my effort would be recognized by Self Help Africa in such a way," he said.
In recent years, farmers have been facing many problems; mostly those related to climate change, hence the significance of the training scholarship for lead farmer Mhango.
"The training will help us to address some of the challenges we are facing, for instance, the declining soil fertility which is also contributing to low production of crops.
"I believe I will learn new ways of farming and will be able to apply the knowledge with fellow farmers," added Mhango.
Chambalika Mhango has been working with Self Help Africa since 2012. He grows maize, cotton, sesame and groundnuts.
He now leads a group of farmers called Wanangwa Farmer Field School which was established last year (2018) with support from the EU-funded project dubbed 'Better Extension Training Transforming Economic Returns (BETTER), which is part of the national KULIMA (Kutula Ulimi m'Malawi) Programme.
In his trip, Mhango is accompanied by a development facilitator, Charity Chimphamba, who works with farmers in Karonga. She expressed similar excitement with the training scholarship.
"I am sure this training will increase my knowledge and skills in agriculture extension. The training will not only benefit me as an individual, but also Malawi as a nation because I will pass on the knowledge and skills to the farmers.
"I am very happy for this rare opportunity which will also give me the chance to learn from counterparts from other African countries," said Chimphamba, sounding jovial.
According to Self Help Africa Malawi country Director, Ulemu Chiluzi, the purpose of the 10-week course is to enhance knowledge of the participants on a variety of topics including crops, livestock and business management among others.
He said every year Self Help Africa selects candidates to receive the annual scholarship from the Marshal Papworth Fund.
The fund enables farmers and farm trainers from across sub-Saharan Africa to attend the agricultural and horticultural 10-week course in UK.
Self Help Africa is partnering with Marshal Papworth to deliver sustainable farming techniques to communities in sub-Saharan Africa.
Marshal Papworth also helps students from developing countries to grow themselves out of hunger so their fellow countrymen can benefit from a more sustainable future.
This is achieved through provision of agricultural and horticultural scholarships and helping students to develop practical skills and valuable knowledge to share within their local communities to meet future food needs for generations to come.
Self Help Africa has its headquarters in Ireland and the UK. It operates in nine countries across East, Southern and West Africa.
In Malawi, SHA works with smallholder famer associations, cooperatives and agribusiness to help the rural poor households grow and sell more food, improve diets, diversify and grow incomes, and make their livelihoods more sustainable and resilient to external shocks.