President Peter Mutharika Friday launched the Agricultural Commercialisation (Agcom) Project which seeks to transform the country’s smallholder agriculture from subsistence to commercial.
The project will be implemented with a $95 million credit financing facility from the World Bank.
Mutharika described the project as a game-changer for Malawi saying it is the beginning of transformation of agriculture in the country.
He said Malawians’ collective vision is to transform Malawi from being an importing and consuming country to a producing and exporting country.
“We want to make Malawi a producing and exporting country because we want to create new wealth for this country. We want to empower Malawians to create wealth for themselves using our locally available resources.
“We have land. We have water. We have our minds to think. And we have our hands to work with. Why should we be poor? I have always said Malawi is not a poor country. This country has everything. And there is no reason why we should continue to be poor people if we use our land and minds wisely,” Mutharika said.
He said a number of reasons, including lack of enough capital and poor markets, have in recent years confined the smallholder Malawian farmer to poverty.
“With Agricultural Commercialisation Project, we will empower farmers as follows: We will provide good financing for investing in agriculture; we will create access to well-structured markets in order to give value to farmers’ produce; we will provide a good feeder road network so that farmers can transport their produce easily to markets,” Mutharika said.
World Bank Country Manager Greg Toulmin said the project is expected to significantly boost commercial food production in Malawi, which can be one of the country’s economic accelerators.
Toulmin said Malawi cannot achieve more economic growth and stability without a vibrant sector producing food, together with a diverse spectrum of commercial commodities, for both domestic and international markets.
“Agcom will significantly contribute to creating jobs. The project follows an approach that has successfully created jobs in over 20 countries around the world, in particular in Latin America, through an approach known as ‘productive alliances’. A project similar to Agcom, in Colombia, created more than 10,000 new jobs, including both on-farm jobs and jobs in the product value chains and related services.
“Agcom will support smallholder farmers so that they can become more economically resilient. The project seeks to resolve some persistent challenges that prevent smallholder farmers from taking advantage of the benefits of markets; for example, achieving a minimum scale to negotiate with buyers. The project will therefore support organised farmers that are willing to produce and sell together,” Toulmin said.
One of the country’s agriculture aggregators, Agrizone International Trading Managing Director, Matius Bonongwe, said the coming of the project would help improve farming for exports in the country.
Despite Malawi being described as an agrobased economy, most of the farming remains subsistence with most farmers using archaic tools such as hoes.