MALAWI – Malawi government has launched a six-year Agricultural Commercialization project (AGCOM) with support from the World Bank of USD 95 million loan facility aimed at supporting 650,000 farming households to venture into commercial farming of food crops shifting focus from tobacco farming.
Tobacco industry, the country’s main cash crop accounting for 13% of its gross domestic product and 60% of its foreign exchange earnings has been dwindling due to anti-tobacco campaigns.
This has led the government set up the AGCOM project to better farmers livelihoods.
The project focuses on improving production and marketing of legume, horticultural crops, dairy and aquaculture farming giving the farmers a wide range of choices for their specialisation.
“We are very much aware that no single crop can replace tobacco in the country at the moment. But a combination of these legumes and horticultural crops such as mangoes and tomatoes can increase farmers’ incomes and earn the country foreign currency in proportions not very far from tobacco”.
“Legume crops such as soya beans, groundnuts, red kidney beans and sugarbeans, which we want farmers to focus on, have a huge market in South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia.’’ National Coordinator, Dr Teddie Oliver Nakhumwa stated.
He further added that the project is demand driven and addressing the farmers critical needs.
“Farmers complain of lacking capital, access to reliable markets and belonging to farmers groups that never assist them which makes them fail to make progress.’’
Through AGCOM there will be establishment of cooperatives where farmers will have access to loans and necessary extension services such as learning contract negotiation and contract farming to enable them bargain good prices for their produce.
In addition to that Productive Alliances comprising of farmers, input suppliers and buyers will be set up that will work together. 300 Productive Alliances will be formed by the end of the project to accommodate the 650,000 farming households.
According to Nakhumwa, the project has so far trained 30 agribusiness specialists, 21 trade liaison officers and 28 District Agriculture Development Officers (DADOs) will assist in the formation of the Productive Alliances and developing their capacity.