At a time the One Village One Product (Ovop) is under criticism for failing to end poverty among its intended beneficiaries 10 years after its introduction in the country, the Japanese government says it will phase out its funding to the project in April 2016.
According to the Japanese Ambassador to Malawi, Shuichiro Nishioka, the project will end in April 2016 based on the agreement between governments of Malawi and Japan.
“Technical cooperation project in nature aims to assist Malawian government for a certain period for them to operate by themselves. Development of Malawi is on Malawians not outside donors. Project played its role for the past 10 years and now it is time for Malawians to continue its operation,” he said in a written response to The Daily Times’ questionnaire.
Nishioka added: “However, this does not mean that Japan will not take any further action. As Ovop has been one of the important movements in Malawi and that we have supported, we would like to see its progress and support where necessary even if that is not in the form of project.”
The Ambassador disclosed that his government funded 300 million Japanese Yen (roughly US$3 million) for phase one and 330 million Japanese Yen (roughly US$3.3 million) in phase two of Ovop project.
Nishioka recommended that based on the Strategic Plan for
Ovop Programme 2014-2019 and the daily activities by Ovop Secretariat, activation of the Cooperative Union would be key for the betterment of the Ovop programme in Malawi, saying the establishment of Cooperative Union aims to promote and develop Ovop co-operative societies, to promote sustainability of Ovop group activities, especially in the area of market access for their better living standards.
“Ovop, like other income generation activity projects, is currently facing the challenge of expansion of the market for Ovop products. We hope to see more collaboration between the Ovop Secretariat and other relevant organisations to provide appropriate support towards sustainable activities that are being done by Ovop groups all over Malawi,” he said.
According to investigations done by our sister paper, Malawi News, a few weeks ago, Ovop project which came on the promise of eradicating poverty among rural Malawians has instead driven them further into it by keeping them in a vicious loop of debt.
The paper established that much of the debts that people have incurred are through equipment which some cooperatives under the project said were imposed on them.
Spokesperson for Ministry of Industry and Trade, Wiskes Nkombezi said currently the Ovop Programme is supporting 121 groups across the country, 87 of which are registered as Ovop Cooperatives.
Nkombezi, who at the time The Daily Times called him was not aware of the issue, said if the Japanese government happens to phase out funding to the project the cooperatives that are supplying their products to Japan will continue to do that.
“The issue of equipment loans is also a different one between our secretariat and the cooperatives so that too can’t be affected by this issue,” he said.
When asked what will become of Ovop activities’ funding, Ministry of Finance spokesperson, Nations Msowoya said this means Ministry of Industry and Trade will have to include Ovop activities in the 2016/2017 budget.
“The only way Malawi government can take over from donor funding is the inclusion of its activities in the next budget,” Msowoya said.
Meanwhile, the Japanese Embassy has said since 2005, the government of Japan and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) have supported the government of Malawi to strengthen the capacity of the OVOP Secretariat and in particular, the Assistant Cooperative Liaison Officers (ACLOs) through this technical cooperation project and dispatching volunteers to the OVOP Secretariat and other OVOP groups in the rural areas that require assistance to improve their production activities.
Malawi was one of the first countries in Africa to implement the Ovop movement, which was originally pioneered in Oita Prefecture in Japan.
A vibrant writer who gives a great insight on hot topics and issues