The government has launched a K5.5 billion ($7.4 million) Cooperative Development Programme (CD4) to strengthen businesses in various sectors, including governance, financial management and capitalisation.
The five-year programme, which is funded by the United States International Development Agency (USAid) and implemented by Land O’ Lakes Inc, will run in Malawi and Rwanda.
USAid office chief for economic growth Cullen Hughes said in an interview on the sidelines of the launch that USAid is funding the programme because its aspirations are aligned to Malawi Government’s policies on cooperatives.
He said: “This programme is predicated on the fact that when farmers organise and work together, they have a voice and can succeed economically. When they do not work together, they remain powerless on issues that affect their lives.”
Hughes said USAid believes that agricultural cooperatives help farmers to access markets and inputs, achieve economies of scale and gain market power.
On his part, Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism director of cooperatives and registrar Wiskes Nkombezi said the programme is likely to help in improving the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) with an estimated figure of six percent within the implementation timeframe.
He said: “The ministry continues to register cooperatives but some collapse due to lack of knowledge. If they are strengthened, they are empowered to make sound decisions.”
CD4 programmes manager Deborah Kafanikhale said her organisation will provide information on marketing to cooperatives and that it will link farmers to markets through other projects.
But she stressed that the programme’s main focus will be on governance and financial management, among other priority areas.