A better life unfolds at 53 – the story of Luwiza

A better life unfolds at 53 – the story of Luwiza

By Vincent Nhlema

In 2018, Luwiza Petulo, a 56yr old female farmer, from Chiphala Village, Traditional Authority (T/A) Zulu in Mchinji District, decided to learn how to read, write and calculate, when the National Smallholder Farmers’ Association of Malawi (NASFAM) introduced some adult literacy and numeracy lessons in her area, with support from the Egmont Trust.

The 56yr old, then 53, narrated that at a young age, she did not have an opportunity to attend school as her parents forced her do farm work and other household chores instead of schooling. She was deprived the right to an education which every child is supposed to have.

As a household head, looking after 6 family members, (including her husband who has some physical challenges), she has struggled to make ends meet for a good part of her life.

“The coming of Adult Literacy lessons has transformed my life. I did not know what to expect, but as we progressed, in addition to learning how to read, write and calculate, it also opened my understanding of farming business. Since then, I have diversified my farming. I now make more money than before. I wish it happened earlier”, said Luwiza.

The literacy and business lessons have transformed her farming. Luwiza now does things differently. She utilizes every available opportunity to make more money.

“NASFAM taught me how to be progressive in farming business as a smallholder farmer. Before, my focus was on food security, which was also difficult to achieve most often. But since 2019, my focus has been on business, with the aim of generating additional income.

“With that in mind, I ventured into production of vegetable crops such as tomato, and other leafy vegetables during the dry season. From the money I realized in the first season, I bought two pigs that multiplied and became another reliable business”, added Luwiza.

Luwiza said she regrets not having a chance to learn at a young age because she feels it affected her development.

Since attending adult literacy lessons, she does not worry about farm inputs because she is able to raise enough capital to buy inputs for her crops. In 2020, she bought 10 bags of fertilizer using income from piggery. She also uses animal manure she collects from her few animals to cultivate some vegetables. That, she says, saves her some money which could have been spent on chemical fertilizers.

Having taken a lesson in crop diversification as a resilience response to climate change, as well as diversifying income sources, Luwiza made it a point to try out new cash crops.

“For the first time, I tried to grow rice right in my area. It is not a popular crop here but I wanted to explore it. To my surprise, it did well and it became a key crop for income”, Narrated Luwiza.

The rice yield she got helped her to pay for labour as she prepared her field for the current season. Luwiza is optimistic about the future as she continues to explore more new opportunities presented before her, through the adult literacy lessons she attended.

Through adult literacy programs, NASFAM trains smallholder farmers in basic numeracy and literacy skills to help them improve their farming business; empowers them with HIV/AIDS prevention and positive living messages; promotes women empowerment  and other social and economic issues that help to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers and their communities.