Project update end of April 2008

During months of March and April the Paprika Project Malawi team has been working on the two deliverables as agreed with our Project Board and described in our Project Initiation Document (PID). Product #1 concerns the Organization, to formalize a legal structure (Trust) and its related activities; product #2 concerns the Marketing Plan, to get, keep and grow the number of farmers. Both products are in their final stage and will be distributed to our Project Board shortly. 

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One of the risks signalled in our Risk Log is the distance to Malawi and related communication issues that may occur. It seems that telephone and internet connection in the capital of Malawi, Lilongwe, are more reliable than in Zomba district, in the south of the country. We are trying to make contact to Wim van den Bos (Oikonomos Malawi), board representative on behalf of the users (smallholder farmers), for about two months but all communications seem to fail. One of the project team members is having regular contact with Sander Donker, board representative on behalf of the supplier (Cheetah).

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Sander is really looking forward to our products and recommendations. He recently confirmed that Cheetah can handle much more tons of paprika’s than delivered during the previous season. He also hopes much more smallholder farmers will structurally decide to grow paprika as their cash crop. The growth-season in Malawi last from November to April. At the moment of writing harvesting will commmence. 

We hope to hear soon from both Cheetah and Oikonomos on the outcomes of the last season. Also if and to what extend paprika as a cash crop has been introduced succesfully to (new groups of) small farmers in Malawi.

Within the project team, one of the members has decided to leave the team for personal reasons. The four of us will finalize the project.

Gerard Adriaanse, Rob Jonkman, Henk Keizer and Gerard van Kilsdonk.

Leading change into Malawian paprika farmers

During the last phone call from Gerard Adriaanse with Wim van den Bos (our local oikonomos consultant in Malawi) he complimented us on the received products. Especially the brainstorm based on the book “Leading change” of John P. Kotterabout the farmer groups was very inspiring and stimulating. He liked the structure and creativity. 
As Oikonomos does no micro credits they had an arrangement with MRFC , a local bank. It appeared that MRFC is not a reliable partner.
Besides the high interest rates (33% a year) they also have strong credit ratings regarding the micro credits. Furthermore MRFC had a “computer breakdown”. In some cases farmers did not get their loans, however they had paid their initial payment.
Wim's enthusiasm is shown by his idea to arrange a brainstorm in April with 10 different farmer groups about “the problem” and possible solutions. The 10 will represent 10 different cities in the Zomba district. The brainstorm is different from his current approach. Up to now he defined the problem and the solutions (the paprika project). This is a major change in the approach of farmers.
Gerard Adriaanse, Rob Jonkman, Henk Keizer, Gerard van Kilsdonk and Robert Mares.

Workshop creative thinking to boost our project in Malawi

The main goal of our real life project is establishing a farm enterprise development trust in Malawi helping paprika farmers to get organised so they will get a higher output and a better price for their paprika's. One other goal of our Real life business project is to improve our innovation. Robert Mares organised an evening workshop at the Creativity Company in Rotterdam for our project team and also the Moldova growth experience project team.


Guy Hafkamp introduced us into the world of creative thinking. That's where we experienced really to think out of the box.
One of the exercises was this list of numbers: 24,25,27,31,32,35,38,45,49,56.
The question is: which one does not fit in this row ?

If you think you know the right answer, please post your reaction and mention why you choose this number ( End of March we will publish the right answer.

However the workshop was too short we all learned a some basics about creative thinking and experienced our own different "boxes". Based on this workshop our team used several times creative thinking techniques to boost developping the products within the paprika project.
Gerard Adriaanse (Berk Accountants)
Rob Jonkman (Danielli-Corus)
Henk Keizer (Tijhuis-GGN)
Gerard van Kilsdonk (van Kilsdonk financial solutions)
Robert Mares (denQers project and interim management)

Our trip to Malawi (final part)

On Thursday morning we achieved to have an appointment with Mr Harrison B. Kalua, CEO of Mzuzu Coffee Planters Cooperative Union (MCPCU) that comprises five primary Coffee Cooperatives and became effective on 1st April 2007. The decision to form Cooperatives was made by Coffee Growers after consultation meetings that took place between Government through the Privatization Commission and Coffee farmers.

MCPCU took over the responsibilities of the Smallholder Coffee Farmers Trust (SCFT), which operated from 1st April 1999 as a transitional organization charged with responsibilities of managing transformation process of building capacity among farmer organizations, revitalizing coffee development and initiating crop diversification programs. From 1999 to 2007 SCFT made good progress because of grower’s commitment, financial support from EU Stabex programme,  Government support for the industry and prudent governance and management of the Board and Management.

As a farmer based organisation, SCFT was able to organize and service farmers at village level (business centre), sectional level (business zone), and extension planting areas level (association). Mr. Kalua’s vision is to create both  income and food security for rural farmers in Malawi through member based organisations. MCPCU will promote, process and market the high quality Arabica coffee through farmers owned and managed businesses. Mzuzu Coffee is grown by almost 4.000 Malawian smallholder farmers in the North of Malawi. Flowering starts in October, ripening in April and harvesting is between May and October.


Farmers are free to sell their coffee and to make profit. Trusts try to pay farmers a fair price ranging from 60 to 80% of the export price realised, provided farmers are delivering the highest quality. On the international market Mzuzu coffee is well known in Switzerland, Netherlands, UK, USA, Germany, South Africa and Japan. On the domestic market it is a popular product in hotels and restaurants and groceries. After a round tour on the plant we drunk a TRUE SINGLE ORIGIN COFFEE FROM THE WARM HEART OF AFRICA.

Friday morning we met Sander Donker, Managing Director of Cheetah (Malawi) Limited and also our project board member. Cheetah is now rather focusing on international trade than extension activities. Cheetah is market leader on the Malawian Paprika (Capsicum annuum) output and is supplied by thousands of smallholder farmers and trying to pay them a fair price to keep farmers motivated to have paprika as their cash crop. Cheetah preferably works with farmers growing paprika of approx 0.8 ha and achieving an average yield of 1.100 kg, worth $800. Cheetah recognizes four grades  of quality, depending the colour of the production. A is the highest level and its colour is dark maroon without damages; D is the lowest level and its colour is red without mould. So (again) the key success factor is the education level of the farmers. Therefore Sander’s recommendation is to spread education wide by training the trainers. He also advised to invest (non-) government subsidies, like EU Stabex, into rural education programmes.

After having evaluated the whole week with Wim, the prevailing feeling was to have invested one week on our project that was more revealing than anything we learned from interviews, documents, reports and papers. We left Malawi with a lot of impressions to digest further at home. Indeed, a once in a life time experience.

Gerard Adriaanse, Rob Jonkman, Henk Keizer, Gerard van Kilsdonk en Robert Mares.

Our trip to Malawi (continued)

On Sunday we stayed in the capitol of Malawi and joint a bilingual service in the local Presbyterian Church.  The African singing was touching heart and mind and appealed very much to the local feel. Next day we prepared for a four hours trip by bus to Blantyre in the south of Malawi, where we met with Wim van den Bos, project board member representing the users.

Wim is working for Oikonomos Foundation Malawi (OFM), who initiated the smallholder paprika production and marketing programme in 2006.  We discussed the travel plan for the week to get as much out of it for our project deliverables and our recommendations to the project board. Together with Wim and Alex, his local district coordinator, we visited a small farmer group, who were growing the high value crop paprika. Without having possiblities of irrigation, the crop will grow during the winter (or rain) season, planting in December and harvesting in May. As maize is the Malawian farmers’ most important agricultural food product, they are also trained to grow the cash crops. However the three key success factors are education, education and education. This is taken care of by extension workers like Alex. Another important issue is getting sufficient fertiliser and chemicals. If fertiliser is applied in the right way, the yield may triple and  subsequently the income will increase. Another issue is that farmers are not always aware of availability due to a lack of communication. However having fertiliser available is depending on the government policy and farmers being able to pay the deposit to the Malawi Rural Financing Company to get the funding. Repayment of loan by the individual farmer has proven to be an issue since borrower identification was not easy. Also traders paid farmers for their harvest in cash, but farmers easily forgot to repay the lender (often a non government organisation).
 The smallholder farmers are encouraged to organise themselves in a centralised farmers group with smaller groups in the area, each one supervised by a senior farmer, locally called spokesman or chief. Although not the level of a formal (officially registered) cooperation yet, it could be the first step a long road to get the farmers properly organisised and develop into an association and memberships. If established, benefits from combined purchasing, marketing and communication could be achieved.

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The next day we visited two farmer groups in Zomba district, north of Blantyre. The first group, man and women mixed, had organised themselves into a formal (officially registered) association. The path of organising from individual farmer into clubs and into association took a number of years. The almost 600 members of the association did already benefit from the membership structure by combined selling activities and guaranteed repayment of loans among the members. The formal structure existed of a chairman, a secretary, a treasurer and about five general members. The second group, women only, had organised themselves into a formal (officially registered) cooperation, so one step further  than the association. The 300 women were benefiting from the cooperation structure and were doing very well. They were proud to repay their three year loan amounting more than 2.3 Million Malawi Kwatcha in full this year. Upon leaving we were asked to write the purpose of our visit in their guestbook. The farmers’ problems discussed in Zomba district were the same as we heard before. We felt both groups were in a better shape, since they have organised themselves with the objective to reduce poverty. They have set up an access to inputs for agricultural activities, getting fertiliser, seeds and chemicals to be distributed among the members.  Their goals are to increase the number of members, creating business access for their families and profit for their children. In conclusion of the last two days: throughout the country lots of local smallholder farmers’ initiatives are taken place to overcome poverty. It gives us the challenge to continue our project and deliver accordingly.

The next day we traveled all day from Zomba to Mzuzu in the north of Malawi.
Gerard Adriaanse, Rob Jonkman, Henk Keizer, Gerard van Kilsdonk en Robert Mares.

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Study trip to Malawi I

At the end of 2007 it was announced to the Project Team by our Project Board member, Wim van den Bos (Senior User, Oikonomos Malawi) that Oiknomos Netherlands did not approve our budget request of € 10.000 to enable the five Project Team members on a study trip to Malawi.

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Originally it was envisaged the five of us should have the real look and feel with the paprika smallholder farmers in Malawi.
Due to the constrainsts of work related to closing activities of financial year 2007, the only possible period to go to Malawi was scheduled the second week of January 2008. It became a real challenge for us to organize alternative funding in a very short timeframe. Before year end we got commitments on our revised travel budget from the companies we are working for. The balance should come from our own cash resources. As a group we have decided to delagate only two (of five) team members to visit Malawi. On 11 January 2008 Rob and Gerard left for Malawi.
The next day we arrived at Lilongwe, the capitol of Malawi. We were welcomed by Charles Chikopa, extension worker for Cheetah (Malawi) Limited, established in 1995. Cheetah has introduced and boosted the small scale paprika production in Malawi. Shortly after the arrival we went with him to Dedza district to visit our first paprika smallholder farmer.

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We learned from Cheetah that Paprika is a horticultural crop that is particularly grown for oil extraction and powder production. Paprika is known for its sweetness, flavour and red colour used as a ground powder on its own or in spice blends, the second major use for dried paprika is for the oleoresin extraction. Paprika oil is used as a natural colouring agent for the food industry. Paprika being a horticultural crop needs high attention during production. There are many ways a farmer can grow paprika: small scale, emergent farmer, commercial farmer or corporate farmer. The general rule is "the more you put in the more you get out".

Following weeks we will exchange more details and pictures about our visit to Malawi.

Gerard Adriaanse, Rob Jonkman, Henk Keizer, Gerard van Kilsdonk en Robert Mares.


Last eight weeks have been spent on research articles on the internet and interviews with relevant experts. The programme will combine the promotion of commercial oriented farming with enhancing farm (food) productivity.
At the same time the programme supports the poorest farmers to increase their production. In general, agriculture contributes significantly to poverty reduction. Agricultural growth, particularly increased production has been a feature of countries that have successfully reduced poverty.
Last week of November we finalized the appointments of our Project Board members: Wim van den Bos (Senior User,Oikonomos Malawi), Sander Donker (Senior Supplier, Cheetah Limited) and Roel Jongeneel (Oikonomos Netherlands).After this week we delivered final Product Initiation Document, Business Case and Business Plan, all approved by our Project Board. Approval by Richard Moret, PRINCE2 consultant is still pending.   

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Second week of December our request for budget regarding our intended travel plan to Malawi is delivered to Oikonomos Malawi, pending approval from Oikonomos Netherlands. Costs involve travel, board and lodging estimated at € 5,000. Upon approval two members of our project group will visit Malawi in month of January 2008.  
Our first product will focus on organizing co-operation through an informal farmer group structure, ultimately leading to a legal co-operation within a 10 years timeframe. The second product is a Marketing plan distinguishing three different farmer groups.

Matching study objectives and project content will focus on:

  • Entrepreneurship, through marketing research in Malawi, resulting in a marketing plan to get and keep farmers ultimately aiming to establish a legal co-operation and stimulating entrepreneurship with local farmers.
  • Research & Methodology
  • Communication strategy
  • Creativity and Innovation, through developing the products: Organisation and Marketing plan Get, keep & grow the number of farmers.
  • Project Management, applying PRINCE2 methodology.

We work on this project until May 2008. Results achieved at that time will be handed over to Oikonomos Malawi for further implementation and communication to stimulate the agri business and to develop local entrepreneurship.

Gerard Adriaanse, Rob Jonkman, Henk Keizer, Gerard van Kilsdonk and Robert Mares.

Introduction project Malawi

Our MBA programme includes a hands-on, real-life business project that will allow us to develop our professional skills in practice, rather than just in theory. We are working in close cooperation with the Oikonomos Foundation Malawi. The foundation selects and manages projects in developing countries, the central idea being the reliable and purposeful spending of financial resources.


Ultimate goal of Oikonomos Foundation Malawi is the incorporation of a Farm Enterprise Development Trust growing to approximately 3.000 members within a period of three years. A family consists of eight persons, meaning 24.000 people will be provided with food and a higher income.

We have selected a project within the economic area to enable the project team members to provide their best knowledge, skills and experience to the project. Purpose of the project is to fight against poverty in a durable way.

Geographically we concentrate on Malawi and to establish an organization for the collective selling of paprika’s. Focus will be put on increasing local employment, raising families income or strengthen the local economy growth.
Last four weeks have been spent on research articles on the internet and relevantliterature and documentation as well as interviews with specialists on development cooperation and agribusiness, particularly in Africa. We envisage to visit Malawi for meeting the people we currently work with and for local observations to get the right look and feel. The budgeted costs will be limited to travel, board and lodging and expected not to exceed 10.000 euro and are to be covered yet. Our contribution is to deliver following two products:

  1. An organisation that is most applicable to the type of business and meeting local requirements
  2. An attractive plan recruiting and keeping the local farmers as members to the organisation.

The project runs for nine months as of September 2007 and after that both products are either realized or to be handed over easily. Our long-term view is other farmers from the region will follow the first group of farmers and subsequently stimulate the agri business and initiate local entrepreneurship.

Gerard Adriaanse, Rob Jonkman, Henk Keizer, Gerard van Kilsdonk en Robert Mares.