C:AVA Malawi identified three village processing groups (VPGs) of CMRTE from Zomba, Old Maula from Nkhata Bay, Tiyamike Green Belt from Mulanje and four processing entrepreneurs from Nkhotakota to kick start the HQCF value chain in 2009. Each group received a grater powered by diesel engine and hydraulic press with 50 ton jack from C:AVA with the exception of four entrepreneurs from Nkhotakota who got their equipment from FAO that included a hammer mill.
None of the groups had processed HQCF until C:AVA conducted training on processing, quality management and end user trials. The groups started producing HQCF in August 2010 and by end of the dry season (processing season) in November, they had processed 18.6 tons.
A strategy was designed around empowering members of VPGs to market their HQCF to rural end users through providing training on marketing. All processing groups and entrepreneurs were invited to a marketing training workshop which was facilitated the C:AVA BDA.
The training was conducted in two phases and had the main objectives of
- building the capacity of VPGs to effectively identify key market segments of HQCF and focus on them as their main markets
- unleashing the potential of the processing groups to map their areas of jurisdiction and start engaging with their main customers
- empowering processing groups with required knowledge and skills to increase sales of HQCF
- empowering processing groups with knowledge and skills to determine their production schedules in relation to available markets
- facilitating processors engaging in effective dialogue with customers and consumers
- facilitating the process of brainstorming amongst representatives of processing groups on marketing strategies.
Overall the training was aimed at building capacity of VPGs to take more responsibility for the marketing of HQCF. Participants were inducted into basic principles of marketing and actively participated in group discussions.
All processing groups were encouraged to conduct end user trials to identified customers. The trials were organised, coordinated and conducted by members of processing groups with support from C:AVA for training materials such as wheat flour, sugar, yeast etc., from July to August 2011. The new set of end user trials had an immediate positive impact on the sales of HQCF in rural areas.
The main buyers of HQCF have been rural bakers (traditional mandazi makers and scone bakers) with small quantities being absorbed by medium bakeries located in rural areas.
Increased production and sales of HQCF have opened opportunities for many players in the value chain to benefit. First and foremost are rural bakers who abandoned the business of making and selling mandazi in rural areas due to high prices of wheat flour. HQCF has revived businesses for them and are now able to run their businesses at a profit.
Increased marketing opportunities of HQCF has also enabled more producers to benefit by selling fresh roots to processing groups. Other beneficiaries include employees at processing sites.
Shop owners located in various trading centres are also benefitting by selling HQCF to rural bakers in small quantities with reasonable margins. The last category of beneficiaries are consumers of mandazi and scones in rural areas who have continued to access these products at affordable prices. HQCF is here to stay!