By Solister Mogha
Blantyre — Blantyre District Council has advised farmers to formulate uniform commodity pricing and farming by-laws as one way of protecting themselves from unscrupulous traders.
Director of Planning and Development for Blantyre District Council, Francis Matewere made the appeal on Monday when he led the district management team to some of the gravity-fed irrigation schemes the council is implementing.
Matewere said farmers needed to take farming as a business if they were to realize maximum profits, noting that having enforceable laws would not only protect them from losses but also boost their income.
"Farmers have been exploited for quite a long time and our advice is that they should come up with by-laws which should set standard prices for their commodities," he said.
"There shouldn't be anyone selling their farm produce at a lower price and with by-laws in place, we are assured that vendors will not have the opportunity to cheat our farmers," Matewere added.
Matewere also appealed to farmers to form groups, saying working in isolation only promoted chances of being exploited.
Chairperson of Mikolongwe Irrigation Scheme in Traditional Authority (TA) Somba, Nyadani Andrea assured the council that the group would soon meet and formulate its by-laws.
Andrea said since the establishment of the scheme a decade ago farmers have nothing tangible to show-off as vendors bought their crop produce at very low prices.
"I think we really need to come up with by-laws that would penalize anyone selling farm produce at low price and also bar vendors who have always bought from us at a giveaway price," Andrea assured.
Meanwhile, Matewere has asked farmers in gravity fed irrigation schemes to maintain the vegetative cover with the aim of recharging the water table.
"You may wish to know that the council has plans to extend gravity fed irrigation schemes but this will only be achieved if framers protect the existing natural resources," he said.
Blantyre district has 165 irrigation sites of which 53 are using gravity fed irrigation technology, six motorized, 39 treadle pumps and 67 watering cans.
Over 11,134 people are benefiting from the irrigation technologies.
However, with proper support from government, the district which has plenty of perennial streams could develop irrigation systems and become a food basket.