Unveiling Hidden Value: Recognizing the untapped potential of dried maize stems

Written by Ivy Tunkete Mwanyongo:

While Maize remains a staple crop for many in Malawi, an intriguing paradox arises among farmers regarding its byproduct. Dried Maize stems, which are abundantly available after harvest, often find themselves abandoned and neglected.

However, in Chimpumbulu village, located in the outskirts of Lilongwe City, resourceful women have discovered a remarkable solution for the abandoned dried maize stems, gathering and transforming them into marketable bunches for sale.

Yeletina Jailosi, one of the women actively involved in the initiative, narrates that they diligently venture into various fields to gather abandoned dried maize stems.

Jailosi: the dried stems are contributing to our survival.

“When people have completely finished harvesting their maize fields, we gather and compile the stems into a big bunch that is sold at k1, 000 each. Most people do not really mind about the dried maize stems and thus a plus to us, because we are at liberty to go in any field that we want”, said Jailosi.

Jailosi added that, “People are used to that in this area, we gather and sell the dried maize stems, so they come to buy the dried stems making thousands of kwachas in return”.

She highlighted that after selling the dried maize stem bunches, they are able to purchase basic necessities for their homes, amid the prevailing financial challenges.

Another woman involved in the initiative Agness Mbewe said with her, the dried stems are a source of heat to prepare meals for her household.

Mbewe: they’re a good source of heat.

“As for me, I use the dried maize as a source of heat and prepare food for my family. Of course, they do not last long, but they provide enough heat such that the food is prepared within a short period of time”, said Banda.

Apart from acting as a source of income and heat for cooking, the dried maize stems can also be effectively employed as organic manure, used in building gardens and fences, among others.

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