Photograph — African farming

The World Bank has earmarked a sum of $95 million to fund the Agricultural Commercialization (AGCOM) Project in Malawi over the next six years. The initiative is aimed at transforming the agriculture sector into a highly productive commercial division.

The overall objective of AGCOM for Malawi is to increase commercialization of agriculture value chain products and is targeted at livestock, aquaculture, and small and medium crop farmers that are in cooperatives to ensure sustained commercialization.

According to the National Project Coordinator, Dr Ted Nankhumwa, the project aims to transform the subsistence orientation among small and medium scale farmers to commercial scale to ensure increased productivity and promote diversification.

“AGCOM is also likely to create a well cushioned and resilient agriculture sector which has lately proven fragile to the impact of climate change and environmental degradation,” the coordinator said.

Nankhumwa said the project is expected to achieve the desired transformation through the building of productive alliances which will support the integration of small-scale farmers and emerging farmers into value addition chains.

“The project also promises matching grants to farmers for increased production, yield, quality and sale of agricultural products, improving post-harvest storage and process capability,” he added.

AGCOM would also provide Partial Credit Guarantee Fund (PCGF) which will act as an incentive to commercial banks to provide competitively priced agriculture financing to small scale farmers who are usually viewed as a risk category.

Director of Agricultural Planning Services in the Ministry of Agriculture, Alex Namaona described AGCOM as complementary to the National Agriculture Policy which is the national road-map to the sector. He said the agriculture policy summarizes the success plan yet it falls short of ideas to practical transformation which projects such as AGCOM will provide.

Namaona also observed that the idea of mobilizing farmers, training and linking them to better markets are aspects bound to promote high diversified and standardized production, a situation which is likely to result in commercialization.

Approved in 2017, AGCOM will run through 2023 and the project involves the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development and Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism. It is currently at sensitization phase which will then be followed by proposal submission by interested farmer cooperatives from across the country.

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