Chakwera hails AGCOM project

The President and the First Lady appreciating coffee that has been value added

* The K300 billion (US$285 million) World Bank facility is adjusted from US$95 million of the first phase

* Will give over one million smallholder farmers a huge boost for them to simultaneously improve livelihoods

* Build lasting synergies and enter into new export frontiers within the Africa Continental Free Trade Area and other global markets

By James Mwale, MANA

President Lazarus Chakwera has hailed the Agricultural Commercialisation (AGCOM) project, saying it is critical for sustainable rural and national economic development.

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He was speaking Thursday at Chinthembwe Primary School in the area of Traditional Authority Vuso Jere in Ntchisi District where he presided over the launch of the second phase of the project, dubbed AGCOM 2.

Under the project, which promotes farming for business purposes, smallholder farmers with a common cause group into cooperatives and apply for grants whose 30% is the cooperatives’ contribution as matching grant.

Giving his address, Chakwera said: “Today we are launching a programme intended to fund those that are serious about venturing into commercial farming. With support from World Bank and other partners like the Global Agriculture and Food Security Programme and Multi Donor Trust Fund, we are taking our vision of mass production of value chains for exports to the next level.”

In his speech soon after Malawi’s qualification for the extended credit facility (ECF) programme from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), President Chakwera said another critical injection into the Malawi economy is the US$250 million dollars allocated for AGCOM, with US$30 million earmarked for the procurement and distribution of maize to address looming threats of hunger.

Thus in Ntchisi, the President went on to criticize some quarters of society who embrace laziness by relying on handouts, saying the country will invest in those who are willing to work hard for their earning and not giving handouts to people whose appetite for consumption is never satisfied.

“We are living in a very serious situation in which we must prioritize funding those who are willing to use the little money we have to grow something, build something and to produce something of value which will generate even more money for our country,” said Chakwera, adding that the US$295 million funded AGCOM 2 programme is for those who want to work on the land God gave them to produce something of value.

Hugh Riddell

Speaking earlier, World Bank Country Manager Hugh Riddell said the second phase has been funded following impressive results from the first phase, and he committed to more support from World Bank towards government’s economic advancement initiatives.

He said the six-year project was a milestone he hoped would be delivered with even better excellence than the preceding one and added that it was encouraging to note elements of women empowerment, with 57% of total farmers under the project being women.

Also present at the occasion was chairperson for Ntchisi East Coffee Cooperative, Nickson Chindugwa, whose coffee processing facility came through funding from the first phase of the project.

Chindugwa appreciated how AGCOM has transformed his economic life and that of his cooperative members, adding that his coffee processing efforts were not yielding much with the manual coffee processing machine he was using earlier.

He further said he was now processing more and has started eyeing international markets.

Farm activities under AGCOM include goat farming, bee-keeping and mushroom farming as part of the long-term development blueprint, MW2063, that spells out that agriculture – being the country’s economic spine – should be fully commercialised to spur economic growth and transform communities.

The second phase of AGCOM project is set to equip smallholder producer organisations and cooperatives with skills, agricultural technologies, extension services, other appropriate public infrastructure and services for them to produce a wide variety of high-quality agricultural products for local and international markets.

The K300 billion (US$285 million) World Bank facility, adjusted from US$95 million of the first phase, will give over one million smallholder farmers a huge boost for them to simultaneously improve livelihoods, build lasting synergies and enter into new export frontiers within the Africa Continental Free Trade Area and other global markets.—Additional reporting by Duncan Mlanjira, Maravi Express

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