Spicy Farmers News & Stories

DECEMBER 9, 2020

We would love to keep you in the loop of our adventures and therefore created our own Spicy Farmers Instagram account. Here you can find the latest updates of the project and in the future we also aim to share some personal stories of our local farmers. Interested to read all about this? Then start following us! Perhaps we can even inspire you to join our mission to empower communities and contribute to wildlife conservation. And of course, do not forget to leave your comments behind, as we would love to hear from you as well!


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Spicy Farmers News & Stories

December 1, 2020

Malawi has a tropical climate and therefore a rainy and a dry season. Especially during the dry season it is very difficult to grow food crops, but also during the rainy season it can challenging. Sometimes rainfall can be too heavy for the crops, while at other times it is too little. Irrigated bird's eye chillies are therefore preferred over rainfed, which is why we are setting up irrigation schemes in the targeted hotspot. Professional local contractors are carrying out these activities, as it is very important this is set up properly. They started after the first community meeting on August 14, by locating and setting out the works for the pumping points, approach channels, pump houses, and solar panels. This is easier said than done, as preferred locations might be under cultivation and can therefore not be used. And as you can imagine, it is hard to sell a project with better prospects to farmers, while in the meantime you destroy their crops. Local farmers and the local Traditional Authority were therefore involved in this process and everything was done in close cooperation. After setting out the works, the contractors were able to start the execution phase around mid October. The contractors had to undertake quite some work, including (amongst others): 

  • Constructing pump houses
  • Excavating trenches and approach channels
  • Placing cement bags along the approach channels (to ensure stability of channels)
  • Installing solar panels
  • Installing pumps, pipes, hydromatic valves and all associated pipe fittings

So far, we are proud of the work done, but unfortunately it does not look like all the work will be finished in December. The execution phase takes a bit longer than expected due to some challenges we faced along the way, including suspension of the work due to a delay in salary payments by one of the contractors, delivery of incorrect saddle sizes, and relocation of one of the pumping points due to desilting issues. This is of course very unfortunate, but we know we will eventually overcome all these obstacles and grow our bird's eye chillies under irrigation. For now, as the irrigation schemes are not yet finished and the rainy season begins, the farmers will start growing rainfed bird's eye chillies. We aim to have our first kilograms of bird's eye chillies, grown by our own Spicy Farmers, by the first half of next year! Very exciting and we could not be more proud of all the locals who are supporting us in this journey. We promise to keep you updated about our spicy crops!

Spicy Farmers News & Stories

AUGUST 13, 2020

We are living in strange times and unfortunately, COVID also hit Malawi. This caused some serious delays in the project. However, we all had to learn how to adapt and so they did in Malawi! With proper distance and facial masks, it was possible to meet in person and host the first community meeting at Malombe Community Day Secondary School. We were extremely excited to get the opportunity to finally introduce our project to the communities. Our most important stakeholders and partners were all present: Mangochi Agriculture Office, Total LandCare, African Parks, and a team of engineers responsible for the irrigation systems. Purpose of this meeting was ensuring community members had a thorough understanding of the project. Total LandCare started by explaining the project, beneficiaries, desired outcome, and involved parties, followed by outlining the roles of community members. Later, each partner organisation was given the opportunity to explain how they intend to operationalise their different tasks. In response, community members who spoke up praised the project, including the Traditional Authority Chowe - people familiar with the Malawian culture know the importance of getting his approval. The community members only mentioned one concern, which is finding long-term markets to ensure tangible improvements in the livelihood of participating communities. A valid concern, as this is a struggle for many farmer organisations in Malawi. One we keep in mind and also work on. But focusing on the good news: now that communities are in favour of the project, we can go ahead and start the construction work for the irrigation systems. To be continued! 

Spicy Farmers News & Stories

MAY 1, 2020

What if you can quit your job for just a few months - what would you do? If you could do anything you want, would you pursue your wildest dream? Frederik and Maureen dreamed of a small business in Africa, where they could help people in need. What kind of business and in which country was all still open, as this was just a dream for later, when they would be old, bored and retired. But why wait if you have the chance to do it now? Two years ago, this seed was planted in their head and they started writing down their mission and ambition. They soon realised this was quite a long shot from their apartment in Amsterdam, so they needed at least one partner organisation that could function as their eyes and ears on the ground in Africa. Their business experience was very useful, but they had absolutely no clue how to do business in an African country. Therefore, they started conversations with African Parks and it was love at first sight. With African Parks, they could not "just" help communities, but they could also contribute to conservation of the amazing and unique wildlife in Africa. The first idea they discussed was planting trees to extract various essential oils. Especially Frederik was over the moon with this idea (yes really, can you imagine?), he already started fantasising about various product lines including perfumes and healing oils. However, after some research into the trees that you need to grow to get the essential oils that are in high demand and talking to various experts in Africa, it appeared these trees are also very popular amongst wildlife, leading to even more outbreaks from the national parks (where they intended to start the business). So nice idea, but there was no Park Manager from African Parks interested in working with them as this would stimulate human-wildlife conflicts instead of solving them. Then there was this other great idea: growing and selling the famous Malawian bird's eye chilli. This idea especially made Maureen very happy, as she cannot have her food spicy enough - and believe us when we say bird's eye chillies are hot hot hot. So Frederik and Maureen started to write a business plan for chillies, but why do this from your apartment in rainy Amsterdam if you could travel to Malawi and write it from there? This also gives you the opportunity to meet experts, local farmers, potential buyers, and all other people you might need to build a business from the ground up. And so they did. In December 2019, Frederik and Maureen moved to Malawi to live there for about five months. The idea was to start with a feasibility study and if chillies were proven to be a successful business model, they would immediately start organising farmers, building irrigation schemes and planting the first seeds. But everyone who has done business in Africa before, would know all of this would be a bit too enthusiastic for just five months. Instead, it took them five months to write the feasibility study (with an outcome in favour of the chillies though!), align the required partner organisations and find the right people for the Board of the company. But still, they could not be happier. They spent five months in one of the most beautiful countries in the world, with the sweetest people they had ever experienced - yes very cheesy, but that does not make it less true. And most important, their wildest dream came true, even before they were old, bored and retired: Spicy Farmers was born!