Meet AFAP’s investment committee chairperson

07 Mar 2013

In Mponela, Malawi, Dinnah Kapiza has become short of a fertilizer extension expert. Local farmers come to her for farming guidance and she is one of the few agro-dealers certified to advice on proper fertilizer usage and appropriate agricultural practices.

“It’s hard to believe that what seems like yesterday I only had one shop,” she says. Kapiza now owns four shops in Mponela and they cater to more than 6000 farmers.

Kapiza, the fourth of eleven children, grew up following her parents, peasant farmers, around their garden.

As her mom tended the garden, Dinnah would stand besides her asking, “Mom what is that, why are plants green and what makes them grow, Kapiza says, “Sometimes the questions would annoy her, but she always answered as best she could.”

She smiles as she recalls this, her mother always stressed the importance of keeping a vegetable garden. “It meant that we never went to bed hungry.”

Kapiza later became a teacher and married a farmer. She lets out a short laugh, “I was always going to marry a farmer,” she says. Her husband was a tobacco and maize farmer. It was different to what her parents had done, but it still kept her in the garden.

After working as a primary school teacher, she retired in 1997 and worked for an NGO that took care of orphaned and vulnerable children.

“This gave me an opportunity to see how people especially widows and orphans suffered from hunger and poverty due to lack of access to farm inputs.” With little knowledge of the agribusiness sector, she established her first agro-dealer shop.

“People associate starting a business with wanting to make profits but this wasn’t my main objective,” she says, “I wanted to help widows, orphans and vulnerable children get farm inputs on their doorstep.”

In the beginning she struggled. “Getting the capital to start the business was hard people aren’t always open to working with women.” However she enrolled with the Citizens Network’s National Policy (CNFA) to be trained as an agro-dealer and this was her introduction to the agri-business sector.

CNFA, through working with rural famers creates economic growth and improves rural livelihoods in the developing world by empowering the private sector. By enrolling with CNFA, Kapiza was given access to goods on credit.

Kapiza is now working on encouraging more women to join the agri-business sector. “It’s a pity that few women are in the agri-business sector because most food in my country is grown by women,” Kapiza says.

“Fertilizer is expensive and most women are poor and widowed and have an acre or less of land to grow crops.”

Kapiza has already established two women groups whom she gives legume seed too. “After harvest I gave them 15kg each and they will pay me 30kg this will be distributed to another group next year”

“Although I started small, I am glad that my dream is becoming a reality, more farmers are using fertilizer, therefore boosting their yields,” Kapiza says.

Kapiza is a board member at the African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership, an organization that works with the public and private sector to bolster fertilizer markets and encourage fertilizer use amongst small holder farmers.

“Through my work with the organization I get to help many smallholder farmers and not just in my country but in other African countries.” AFAP operates in Ghana, Tanzania and Mozambique.

“There is room for more women to benefit from the agri-business sector, and I am glad to work with so many other initiatives to make this a reality.”