Malawi is one of many food insecure countries on the African continent. This is despite the vast potential to exploit growth in local and regional demand for food and agro-products. The newly launched Kukolola Innovation Agribusiness Hub is hoping to address shortfalls faced by farmers and entrepreneurs to increase their competitiveness in regional and global markets. GRACE THIPA sat down with one of the partners, DUMISANI CHIRAMBO for his insights into the project,
First, tell us what this agribusiness hub is all about
The Kukolola Agribusiness Innovation Hub will essentially be a platform where entrepreneurs and every stakeholder in the agriculture value chain will be able to get training, mentorship and business support to enable them to achieve their desired objectives. Other service providers such as financial services players and transporters will also be integrated into the hub’s ecosystem so that the service providers can have a better understanding of the needs and challenges of agribusinesses.
On the other hand, the hub will also be looking at aspects such as how to incentivise youth to take up careers in the agriculture sector and how we can make Malawian agro-products to be more competitive on the regional markets.
What inspired its establishment?
We decided to establish the hub as Malawi does not have a Climate Innovation Centre as is the case is in other countries such as Kenya and Ghana. In many developing countries, climate change impacts are reducing agricultural productivity; hence, exacerbating poverty, unemployment and inequality. Consequently, the donor community has established Climate Innovation Centres in some of these countries so that the people in these countries can develop and implement local solutions to enhance climate change resilience.
Unfortunately, Malawi does not have a Climate Innovation Centre. So, rather than wait until one is established, we have set up the Kukolola Agribusiness Innovation Hub as an alternative to a Climate Innovation Centre as we will, more or less, endeavour to support Malawian businesses and communities to develop local solutions and strategies for enhancing climate change resilience.
Who are you targeting with this product?
Our main target is to increase agriculture production by fostering investments and innovations in Malawi’s agricultural value chains and enhancing the resilience of Malawi’s food systems to climate change. There are so many other sectors that have a bearing on the performance of the agriculture sector, such as irrigation, renewable energy and financial sectors; hence, it is also the actors and entrepreneurs in these sectors that we are trying to engage and support through the hub.
Community-based organisations and social enterprises are also a target market for us as we are aware that most of them have brilliant concepts and plans that can uplift the people in their areas and create jobs but they face various hurdles to implement them. Our main services include agribusiness planning and project management support, export market facilitation, climate change resilience building for businesses and agribusiness financial planning and finance facilitation. So, within this framework, we hope that both start-ups and established businesses will be able to gain something from the hub.
How do you hope to implement this initiative?
Enrolment into the hub will be on an on-going basis. We will essentially create various value chain clusters and block farms. This means that hub members will be grouped into various clusters for bespoke mentoring, technical support and advice regarding their products, markets and services. For example, members focusing on the export of agricultural produce will be grouped in a cluster consisting of other members who export to the same country. Similarly, members focusing on the local market will be grouped in the same cluster consisting of producers, processors, facilitators, service providers, transporters and buyers of certain crops, commodities and processed products.
This strategy is anticipated to aid in mitigating market uncertainties and price fluctuations as producers will be collaborating with the buyers and consumers at various stages of the project cycle. Additionally, we will also have monthly workshops. These workshops will build the capacity of the hub members on issues such as climate risk management, business planning, market identification and access, et cetera.
Initially, there will be monthly workshops in Lilongwe and Blantyre. Ad-hoc workshops will also be undertaken at various venues in different towns and districts in order to cater for members in various localities.
Once successfully rolled out, what do you hope to achieve?
The ultimate objective is to reduce climatic and non-climatic risks in the agriculture sector. So, if the profitability of the businesses of our members continues to grow, we will consider that as success. If we manage to get the youth to create novel business ideas and innovations that bring prosperity to their communities, we will consider that as success. More importantly, if businesses, entrepreneurs and our members have a mindset change and start to consider climate change as an opportunity to improve livelihood security, rather than a threat to their livelihoods, we will consider that as success.
For those interested in get involved, will they be required to pay any fees
Yes, there is an annual membership fee involved. Any individual or institution can apply to be a member of the Kukolola Agribusiness Innovation Hub. In the case of an institution becoming a member, the institution will be required to nominate one individual, who will be the proxy to attend and partake in all hub activities on behalf of all the members of his/her institution. The membership fee is K50,000 per annum. There is a 25 percent discount for the first 20 individuals or institutions to be registered. The initial 20 individuals or institutions to be registered will, therefore, pay a discounted fee of K37,500
Is there anything else you want to say?
For more information about the hub, the general public may contact Dumisani Chirambo on 0992128085 or Ngalazu Phiri 0995490300, or email info@ seedsofopportunity.org. On Friday 23rd March we will also be hosting a stakeholder meeting in Lilongwe. The venue is Jubilee University from 14:00 to16:30pm and anyone is free to attend.