Malawians overcoming climate challenges and bureaucratic obstacles to produce banana wine | Agriculture

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Regina Mukandawire has been growing bananas on her small farm in Karonga district in northern Malawi for over 16 years. However, climate change impacts such as heatwaves, floods, and disease outbreaks have led to a drastic reduction in her yields from half a tonne to just a few buckets per harvest.

Despite being one of the world’s lowest emitters of greenhouse gases, Malawi has been severely affected by climate change. The El Nino dry spell in 2016-2017 left a third of the country’s 18 million people in need of food assistance. Cyclone Idai in 2019 further exacerbated the situation, pushing two million people into extreme poverty and causing $20 million in losses for small businesses.

One crop that has suffered greatly from extreme weather is bananas, Malawi’s fourth biggest staple crop. With temperatures soaring as high as 43 degrees Celsius, bananas often spoil before harvest. In response to repeated losses, a group of farmers from Mlare village started making wine from overripe bananas in 2012.

The group, now known as the Twitule Cooperative, has evolved into a source of livelihood for the community. They produce sweet-tasting wine that is sold in various districts in Malawi and has attracted interest from neighbouring countries like Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Tanzania. Despite their limited resources and lack of sophisticated equipment, the cooperative has been able to generate revenue and support its members economically.

However, the production of banana wine has faced challenges such as the lack of electricity for refrigeration. The group has improvised by digging a deep pit to keep the wine cold. Despite these obstacles, Twitule wine’s popularity is growing, and the cooperative is awaiting certification from the Malawi Bureau of Standards for commercial-scale sales.

Environmental activists have urged the government to provide more support to groups like Twitule. Despite setbacks like heavy rains destroying their banana crop, the cooperative remains determined to continue their efforts. They aim to transform the community through banana wine production and eventually reach markets in Europe and America.

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