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Tobacco farmers urged to diversify

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By Sharon Chirwa:

ALTERNATIVE—Trial field of soya beans varieties—Picture curtsey of ATI
of the statement

An international microfinance non-profit organisation, Opportunity International, in partnership with Agricultural Transformation Initiative (ATI), has launched a programme aimed at helping tobacco growers to diversify their production.

A pilot phase of the programme is underway in Mchinji and Lilongwe districts.

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Through the programme, the two institutions would be providing technology-enhanced finance and training extensions for tobacco farmers.

The firm says the move attempts to find a lasting remedy for the global anti-smoking campaign.

In a statement issued Wednesday, the firm says the programme would help targeted farmers access cheaper capital.

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“The programme addresses capital and resource barriers, access and training for alternative value chains, development of business plans, and gender challenges for women smallholder farmers”, reads part of the statement.

The pilot programme is also aimed at increasing supply and demand of alternative crops and provide access to capital for farmers and will enable them extend their businesses.

Opportunity International Head of Agriculture, Tim Strong, said female tobacco farmers face the most challenges as they have insufficient access to loans and lack representation in contract farming.

“Farmer voice and farmer choice underpin our work and, together with our partners, we look forward to co-investing with our clients, their families, and their communities to share risk in uncertain market time,” Strong said.

ATI Country Director, Candida Nankhuma, said the company is committed to supporting efforts of smallholder tobacco farmers to diversify their crop.

“Opportunity International has successfully developed initiatives that benefit farmers, and this partnership will allow us to provide new and innovative solutions to tobacco farming communities in Malawi,” Nankhumwa said.

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