The Malawi government has rolled out US $95m World Bank funds for a six year Agricultural Commercialization (AGCOM) project. The project aims at increasing the capacity of 650,000 farming households to improve production and marketing of legume and horticultural crops in order to better the farmers’ livelihoods in the face of the dwindling of the country’s main cash crop tobacco.
According to media reports the focus will also be on dairy farming and aquaculture fisheries to give the farmers a wide range of choices for their specialization. The National Coordinator, Dr Teddie Oliver Nakhumwa, said that the project is demand driven and addressing the farmers’ critical needs.
He explained that AGCOM wants to ensure that the proportion of crop harvest that farmers’ take to the market must increase so that they move from being subsistence to commercial. This, he added, is following farmers’ complaints on lack of capital, access to reliable markets and belonging to farmers groups that never assist them.
AGCOM is looking to put farmers in productive cooperatives where they have access to loans and necessary extension services and learning contract negotiation and contract farming to enable them bargain good prices for their quality farm produce and products.
In this regard, Nakhumwa disclosed that AGCOM is establishing Productive Alliances that are cooperatives comprising farmers, input suppliers and buyers that must work together on the farms and identify better markets for their produce. At least 20 of such alliances are expected to be fully operational by the end of this year.
Nakhumwa added that AGCOM is also adopting already existing farmer groups and associations to build their capacity so that they become Productive Alliances or cooperatives as well.