Agriculture Transformation Initiative (ATI), an organisation which aims to diversify tobacco-dependent economies, says there is need for a comprehensive plan to prepare farmers for reduced demand for the leaf on the market.
In view of this, ATI has partnered Opportunity International, a global micro-finance organisation, First Capital Bank Malawi, Horizon Farm and Pyxus International in a new pilot programme in Mchinji and Lilongwe districts to provide technology-enhanced finance and training extensions for tobacco farmers.
ATI country director Candida Nakhumwa said in a statement yesterday that they want to support efforts of smallholder tobacco farmers to diversify their crop portfolio.
“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,” she said.
For a long time, many farmers have relied on tobacco, which brings in 60 percent of the country’s foreign exchange, for their livelihood, but in view of worldwide anti-smoking lobby, the future for the crop is increasingly looking bleak.
On his part, Opportunity International head of agriculture Tim Strong said his organisation has been partnering smallholder farmers in Malawi for the past 15 years.
He said: “We are excited to continue to learn from them through this initiative. Farmers voice and farmer choices 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 times.”
The statement said the joint programme addresses capital and resource barriers, access and training for alternative value chains, development of business plans and gender challenges for women smallholder farmers.