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Rice Challenge – Patience Bertha Hara’s Story

Each year we take on the 90kg rice challenge from our partners Just Trading Scotland. The challenge is to sell 90kg of rice – because when a farmer sells 90kg of rice they can afford to send their children to secondary school for a year. As we launch the rice challenge again this year, with the hope of achieving the challenge 5 times over (and reaching over 1000kg sales!) we introduce you to the rice farmers in Malawi. Each day this week we share their stories so you can meet the people who grow our food, and discover how buying rice in the challenge changes lives of farmers and their communities.


Today, read Patience Bertha Hara’s Story:


Photo credit: Just Trading Scotland

My name is Patience Bertha Hara, I was born on 16th June, 1987 in the family of five.  After successfully completing my primary education, my parents sent me to Joel, a private Secondary School where they believed I would put all my attention and concentration on school. Competition was always fierce especially with the boys as I would always come on third position after two boys, but I always came out on position one in English and Agriculture and that made me start thinking of becoming an agriculturalist and my entire career wishes were shaped towards that.


Culturally, in Malawi, being the first born child in a family, you are expected to share the responsibility of looking after your siblings when you grow up while parents grow old and become less productive and in most cases find it difficult to provide for the family. So, I grew up with this in mind and my parents used to remind me of that often and it made me work extra harder in class.


I did not make it to the University of Malawi but that did not shut my dreams of attending tertiary education and lucky enough my parents were able to send to a private college and so I got enrolled at Natural Resources College of Malawi (2005-2006) at the age of 18 where I did my two year Diploma in Agriculture and Natural Resources Management. I graduated in 2007 and started working the same year at the age of 20. I was still young to start working but since my parents could not afford to support my further studies to degree level. I had no choice but to start working.


I joined Kaporo Smallholder Farmers Association (KASFA) an affiliate of National Smallholder Farmers Association of Malawi (NASFAM). The association is well known for rice production (Kilombero cultivar). My work at the association involved providing trainings in Crop Production, Nutrition, Gender & HIV Aids, Natural Resources Management and Group Formation, Development and Management. I was working with a total of 1500 farmers.


Life at work was challenging because I was the youngest in my team and some of my ideas were given a cold shoulder and could not be taken into account and that made me feel bad. My wish and passion was always to contribute positively towards the improved livelihood of a smallholder farmer and the community at large. Being a young and female Extension Worker was not well welcomed by farmers as they were used to male and old Extension Workers. It took time for farmers to accept that I was there to support them but also to learn from them; with time they got used and started enjoying working with them.


Seeing farmers progressing and their livelihoods improving through the income they realized from rice sales e.g. some farmers were able to buy Iron sheets for roofing their houses, floor their houses with cement which was not the case when I just joined the Association. Through collaborative efforts with my work colleagues, we saw the Association growing and being recognized at National as well as international level.


One major outcome I really feel good to be part of is the trade agreement that KASFA through NASFAM made with Just Trading Scotland on rice fair trade and KASFA is now able to export rice to Scotland and has received several grants that range from Tarpaulins, Oxcarts, and Quality seed to support the production of high quality rice for exportation.


In 2012, I was among the few privileged to participate in an exchange programme funded by the Norwegian government, working in agribusiness partnership at the agribusiness forum in Zambia. The ten months exchange programme mainly focused at sharing ideas, experiences, lessons and challenges in the agribusiness sector that would help the participating countries in a sustainable manner. The programme did not only improve my professional capabilities but I was also empowered and motivated to see female colleagues being degree holders, some were lecturers in various Universities and I came to realize that there is more to life than just being an Extension Worker, I developed self confidence that I can excel in life regardless of being female.


Education has not only helped me to get a qualification, it has also helped me approach issues in life in a better way as am able to make sound decisions which have not only benefited me, but also my family and the community at large, because of education, am able to make decisions and choices about things that affect my life, like when to seek out health care, when to start a family and what jobs to pursue. Education has also enabled me to speak out on issues that affect me and my family and understand the rights and become a force for change in the society.


Click here to read our ‘Alternative Harvest’ blog and find out more about the 90kg rice challenge with fairandfunky.


Click here to read more stories from rice farmers in Malawi.


And click here to buy the rice! And please use code 90RICE to donate to the Welcome Centre and Food Bank in Huddersfield. 

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