In Malawi at present, 74 percent of the population live on less than $1.25 per day. It perhaps is not surprising then that many are turning their back on traditional subsistence farming in search of a commercial pay rise.
It is being said that the brave few who have made the change can make up to three times the amount they were formerly bringing in, which has led to a significantly better standard of living.
Just being able to send their children to school is a luxury for some families and individuals, but for the people who have made the change, not only are they managing to do this, but they are able to send their kids off to school on bicycles before letting them watch a television upon their return home. In rural areas especially, this is a massive improvement on the life quality experienced by the majority of the population.
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The one concern over the new trend is that if everybody makes the move to commercial farming, the core of the country’s age-old exports may suffer as a consequence. However, with the recent decline of tobacco farming in the country also, there is now a gap in the market, it seems, for a new overseas money-maker.
Tobacco formerly accounted for 60 percent of the country’s main revenue through foreign exchange, totalling at $950 million, but sales are now diminishing as a result of smoking bans and restrictions across some of the western world’s markets.
As a result, the Farmers’ Union of Malawi (FUM) is encouraging self-sufficient farmers to switch to the more sustainable commercial farming option.
FUM President, Felix Jumbe said: "We agree that growing maize is good for people's daily livelihoods as they're assured of an availability of it in their households. But cash crops such as paprika are even more viable and sustainable as they allow farmers to make money with which they can buy a diverse range of products.
"We have seen dwindling sales of tobacco year in, year out and we need to be looking at something else for sustainability. That something else is paprika."
Joyce Banda, the new Malawi President has further emphasised the influence that the spice is set to play in the country’s future, expressing her wish to have a sustainable paprika industry in the country.