By Tobias Rukete
Farm Operations Manager – Mchinji
The Growing Season
No one farming season has ever been exactly the same as the other, this being mainly driven by the season to season differences in weather patterns, particularly rainfall among other factors especially with dry land farming. Coming from the background of a 2015-2016 farming season that was characterised by drought and dry spells, all our prayers this time around, were focused on having a 2016-2017 farming season that would be blessed with abundant rains as widely predicted by weather experts. This gave us a lot of hope.
Indeed the season came along with rains that matched our normal rain seasons as predicted but unfortunately this was not the case for all farms. Lakeshore, Mchinji and Lisungwi received normal rainfall but this was not the case with our sister farms in the North. Nkhozo and KTW had a slow start to the season as they received rains late to kick-start the season and overall they had total rainfall far below the expected amounts. However we thank the Almighty that both centres established some fair crops amidst the rainfall challenges with the exception of some soya crops.
Farming has never been without its challenges and as a group we also had our challenges ranging from internal seed quality, late seed contracts from seed companies, farm machinery, and on-farm mobility challenges. The rainfall season in Malawi has always been characterised by a short planting window and we are getting better and better in our season preparedness by adjusting our operations’ approaches to suit the short planting window. I congratulate the whole operations teams across farms for doing their best and slowly and gradually “late planting” is disappearing from our vocabulary as the main reason for poor yields that characterized the past seasons in our yield variances analysis reports.
All having been said and done, the crops were planted, germinated, grown and they have now matured and dried, ready for harvesting. We have quite some decent crops across farms and we expect a reasonable harvest. This would not have been possible for us farmers without the much needed and valued support that we were given by the Executive and Support Services Division, who all went out in full force to try and meet our never ending demands and requests on the farms. Thumbs up to Support Services Division. They have really been there for us as farmers on the ground.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, the seasonal farming journey was begun, has been travelled and now with the onset of the harvesting period, we are far from our destination, we are half way and the journey continues. This is repeatedly said by the Chief Executive Officer, Tim de Borde at every forum and rightly so. He believes we are losing a lot of produce during harvesting and crop processing, which is a fact that cannot be denied. What does this then mean to us farmers? We must feel challenged, what must we do and what must we change?
The journey continues and we now focusing on harvesting…..I call it the final push.
Using the same methods that have produced undesirable results over and over again and expecting different results has long been defined……it cannot work for us during the harvesting period and neither can it work for anybody for that matter. My Fellow Farmers managing farms, this is where we are now being called and challenged to do things differently in order to obtain different results that will embrace “Paying Attention to detail” and “Customer is Key “ as two of the three things we must think of daily as envisaged in the Exagris Strategy Frame-work. As farmers, I urge you to observe these two aspects which if we do, we will not need to announce to anyone that we are doing this, as it will naturally manifest itself in the following:-
- Timely and efficient removal of crops from the fields.
- Provision of adequate security to crops in fields and in storage.
- Timely and efficient processing of all crops to meet quality standards and delivery deadlines.
- Maintaining total accountability for produce quantity and quality throughout the processing and delivery chain.
- Realisation of high quality crop yields.
Acknowledgement of receipt of quality produce by the CUSTOMER (no produce rejections), being paid and having our money in the bank as again repeatedly said by the CEO at all times.
Let us embrace change my fellow farmers and do things differently so that we do not disappoint our team members from other departments who have been cheering us throughout the farming season. They have confidence in us, they know we can do it, Let us not get tired, let us not relax, let us deny mediocrity and deliver excellent quality produce to our customers in sufficient volumes on or before their specified deadlines. If we achieve this, we will have done the job and we can pat ourselves on the back. With some sacrifices and taking our jobs and responsibilities as a calling, we can deliver the right and expected outcomes.
Failure should never be an option.
Together We Can!!