Exagris Africa Limited has the Development Services Unit (DSU) which is aimed at supporting the communities around the farming estates improve their livelihoods in line with the company’s vision in terms of “… creating value for its stakeholders and social and economic growth for the country.” Exagris Africa Developmental objectives are driven by the provision of a number of integrated services provided to smallholder communities surrounding the estates. A central element of this service provision is the improvement of the marketability of smallholder produce. This is achieved by improving quality through training delivered through demonstrations on the farm and in the communities, exchange of information, mentoring through our team of well trained and experienced Community Development Facilitators (CDFs). The principle is in the belief that the company’s existence and success hinges on the surrounding communities as a source of labour and for security reasons. The communities also depend on the company for their livelihoods directly through work and indirectly through general business.
Activities under DSU are planned around a set of core and non-core activities with central funding from the business profits but currently also attracting donor funding. Currently through the DSU Exagris Africa is implementing a total of five donor funded projects. With funding from AGRA through the Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund AECF), the DSU is implementing From Field to Factory Aflatoxin Management (FFAM) which is aimed at improving the quality of groundnuts through a suite of interventions throughout the groundnut value chain. In addition to Dedza this project is implemented in all our farm districts which are Rumphi, Mzimba, Mchinji, Lilongwe, Salima and Mangochi. The project which started in 2013 will run through 2019.
The second donor funded project implemented by Exagris through the DSU is titled “Growing with Groundnuts” and is financially supported by International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) through the Rural Livelihoods Economic Enhancement Programme (RLEEP). The project is supporting a targeted 3,000 smallholder farmers increase incomes by increasing yields through good agronomic practices. The project is being implemented in Mayani EPA in Dedza and Chiosha and Kalulu EPAs in Mchinji. The project started in 2012 and will phase out in 2015.
The third project looks at innovative storage and marketing aspects of groundnuts, supporting farmers around Exagris’ Lilongwe and Salima farms. This project is supported by the Malawi Innovative Challenge Fund and will run for two years from 2014 to 2016. The main aspect of the project is about storing groundnuts in hermetically sealed bags that inhibits the proliferation of aflatoxin. The groundnuts are later processed for the local and export markets.
Going Nuts is another project which started in 2012 and will run to 2020 with funding from the Dutch Government implemented through Sympany (formally Hunana). The project is aimed at training a total of 44,000 smallholder farmers in groundnuts production which will be processed at AfriOils (Exagris’ sister company) and marketed locally and internationally. DAPP Malawi and AfriOils (Exagris Africa and NASFAM) are co-implementers of the Going Nuts project.
Finally, Exagris has a contract with Nandos where smallholder farmers are involved in Chillies production as in-growers at its farms in Lilongwe, Salima and Mangochi. Exagris supports the smallholder farmers with free land and inputs on loan, repayable during the sale of the produce. This is an on-going project and it started in 2014 with 50 farmers and planned to increase in the subsequent years.
Exagris also takes care of the employees who have small children by providing pre-school so that the parents concentrate on their work while the children have a better start to their education. At each farm there is a care taker who helps the children kirk start their education life. The kids are also served with porridge to enable them concentrate on their mind development activities.
Exagris also helps in a number of other activities where there is need such as water reservoir constructions and water source improvements, road and bridge constructions as well as education, health and agriculture related infrastructures such as offices and staff houses.
Currently the DSU has a total of eight Community Development Facilitators based in the farms and directly supported by the Development Services Unit Coordinator and a Projects Financial and Administration Manager based at the head office. The company’s General Operations and Projects Manager provides strategic guidance. Overall, the DSU has support and political will from the company’s senior management and all the departments.