Catholic Relief Services’ agriculture marketing groups help farmers get the best prices for their crops.
Timothy is now able to provide four changes of clothes, three meals a day and blankets for every one of his five children, thanks to an abundant chili pepper harvest and a CRS-organized group that helps him get the best price for his crops.
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Catholic social teaching focus:
Dignity of Work and Rights of Workers
The opportunity to work to earn a living is a right of all people. All workers have the right to a fair wage, to organize themselves and to work in good conditions.
Timothy Machicka, his wife, and five children live in Malawi, a country in southeastern Africa. More than half of the people in Malawi live on less than one dollar per day. Timothy’s family was no exception. He struggled to grow potatoes and corn on his small plot of land, and did whatever odd jobs he could find to earn money. Still, often Timothy’s family only had one meal per day.
Then Timothy joined an agriculture program run by CRS. Timothy learned that chili peppers are a crop that can grow without much water and that they are popular in the market. CRS gave him tools and training, and Timothy planted chili peppers on his land. CRS also helped Timothy form a group with other famers in his village. The group provides strength in numbers; together, farmers buy fertilizer at wholesale prices, which is much more affordable than the retail price. As a group, they negotiate with buyers at the market, and are able to get better prices than they would alone. Buyers also benefit from working with the group. They can tell the famers what types of crops will sell best in the market, and they save time and money by working with the group as a whole instead of visiting each farmer individually.
Timothy learned from the buyers that they like to have the peppers sorted into different packages according to their quality. Bright red peppers are worth the most, orange peppers are second, and yellow peppers are third. Timothy’s family helps him sort the peppers before he takes them to market. The buyers are happy to have the peppers already sorted and packed.
Timothy’s chili harvest was so successful this year that he rented more land for next year’s crop. He is proud to give his family what he couldn’t provide before: three meals a day, and clothes and blankets for his five children.
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Facts to Consider
- Malawi is one of the world’s least developed and densely populated countries. Slightly smaller than Pennsylvania, it is home to over 16 million people, with almost 45 percent of the population between the ages of 0 and 14 years old.
- Farming is the main activity in Malawi, with 80 percent of the rural population relying on food that they grow for a large part of their diet. But when drought occurs, their food supply dries up. Like Timothy, a majority of these farmers must undertake day labor jobs at some point during the year to ensure a year-round food supply. Day labor jobs are unpredictable and low-paying.
- Before they planted the chili peppers, Timothy’s family did not have any steady source of income; this is the case for the majority of Malawians. Less than 10 percent of Malawians work in a salaried position.
- Farming is a family affair; Timothy’s wife and sister-in-law work to sort the chili peppers into different categories according to their quality. The bright red ones are Grade A and fetch a higher price at the market, the orange ones are Grade B, the yellow are Grade C and the molted purple ones are Grade D and fetch the lowest price.
- More than 25,000 farmers are involved in CRS’ marketing groups, and 10,000 of these are chili pepper farmers. (Chili peppers grow well in Malawi’s dry climate.) Marketing groups decide how much each crop should cost. If they decide that quality chili peppers should cost one dollar per pound, a farmer with fifty pounds of quality peppers knows that he could make fifty dollars on market day. This helps farmers predict how much money they will be able to bring home to their families.