At a time when unemployment figures are growing astronomically, Faison Wahiya of Phalombe says he never bothered to look for a formal job simply because he believes it is for idle minds.
"I have never worked since 1988," boasts Wahiya.
"In fact, I have never cherished the dream of making someone rich at my expense. I decided long ago that formal work is stressful and does not reward as farming," he adds.
After working for many years with different companies in the country's major cities, Wahiya trekked back to his rural home in Matepwe village in Phalombe. Armed with nothing but confidence, his journey to success began.
"I started with a small vegetable garden," he recalls. "It was a big test because I had left everything behind to start afresh on a venture that was totally new for me. But the fact that I had worked for many years with nothing to show for it made me more determined to succeed."
With hard work and painstaking sacrifices, Wahiya expanded his garden every year. Spurred by his initial successes, Wahiya soldiered on to become an idol farmer in his village.
In 2002, lady luck smiled on him. A local non-governmental organisation, Evangelical Lutheran Development Services (ELDS), visited his village to explain on several interventions they were intending to implement in the area.
And among the interventions was irrigation farming, which Wahiya was practicing but with so many challenges.
They were asked to form an irrigation club to enable better coordination with ELDS. They formed Namisangwi Club and from there on their lives were never the same.
Almost all the 13 members of Namisangwi Club were practicing irrigation farming at a small scale. With no prior incentive to launch into extensive irrigation farming, partly due to lack of equipment, the farmers were putting to hoe only small portions of their fields.
With financial support from DanChurchAid, a faith based international non-governmental organisation working in Malawi, ELDS procured two treadle pumps for the club, starter seeds and fertilisers for the club.
Although the farm inputs from DanChurchAid were given to the irrigation club, members were expected to continue cultivating on their individual plots.
They would only plant as a club on the communally owned demonstration plot where they shared knowledge on new farming practices.
"At first it was difficult to expand areas under cultivation because we were using watering canes," explains Wahiya who is also village head.
"The water sources were not close to our gardens and this gave an impression that irrigation farming was tedious and so many people opted out of the initiative," he says.
As the initiative grew, it started attracting a lot of attention from other villagers. Wahiya, as the chairperson of the club, was inundated with requests to train new clubs in irrigation farming.
"With support from ELDS, I managed to help form two other irrigation groups in our area. And these are doing as fine as ours," says Wahiya.
After experimenting with different crops, Wahiya settled for cabbages as his main crop. And his choice has never let him down for the past years.
"My life has improved a lot over the years because of cabbage farming. Through cabbages, I have built three houses, bought pigs and a cow, which I could not have achieved if I had stuck to formal employment."
Wahiya, who plants cabbages three times a year, says he is now the major supplier of the crop to schools and businesses in Phalombe, Mulanje and the surrounding areas.
And due to the high quality of his cabbages, vendors from as far as Blantyre place orders with him even when the crop is still not fully developed because of the trust they have in him.
"Currently, I have planted about 1000 heads of the cabbage crop. If I sell them I expect to get about K80, 000. The good returns from the crop always inspire me to plant more as the demand for my produce is growing every day," he says.
He adds: "I get this amount in every three months. I make sure that I have crops in my fields all the time. As I harvest another, the other one will be growing in the nursery, which always assures me of an income throughout the year."
After seeing Wahiya's successes, many farmers in and around Phalombe have ventured into cabbage farming in the hope of emulating his success.
This is now posing some challenges as the market is being over flooded driving the price of the crop down.
But Wahiya is not fazed, "I am very confident of my crop. It will take some time for other farmers to reach the quality I produce. I have been in this business for some time and understands the crop than no other," he says.
Despite the bold statement, Wahiya is cautious about the future. He says he wants to diversify his cabbage farming business by growing sweet potatoes citing 'demand in the product due to high bread prices'.
"I want to grow in business," he says. "I have been in cabbage farming for many years and now want to try new things. I am also planning to use the proceeds from my earlier crop to buy 80 bags of maize.
"Right now maize is cheap and I have people buying for me around Phalombe. When the prices rise, I will start selling at the market price," adds Wahiya who has employed four people to help him in his new venture.
As the village head, Wahiya says he wants his people to work hard and emulate his successes.
"I was never satisfied with having too little and look where I am today. I wanted a cow and now I have one. I also have bought some livestock and now I would want to buy a motor bike that will enable me to meet my customers easily. And in all these, I want my people to follow my footsteps," he says.