When one looks at the communities around four rural growth centres of Malomo in Ntchisi, Chitekesa in Phalombe, Monkey Bay in Mangochi and Jenda in Mzimba, one sees their lives being transformed.
The economic status of the communities is fast improving under the Local Economic Development (LED) project fundedby the African Development Bank (AfDB) administered through Local Development Fund (LDF), a local authority financing mechanism.
Key infrastructure common in rural growth centres include school blocks, tele-centres, modern markets, bus depots and processing factories for value addition of various agricultural produce.
Alongside the rural growth centres’ infrastructural development, is the development of capacities in entrepreneurship to improve the social economic well-being of people in the centres.
The LED project, under the deepening enterprise component, is supporting the rural communities around the centres through business groups and cooperatives.
The groups have been empowered with equipment and training to enable them deepen their entrepreneurship skills as outlined by LDF’s enterprise development specialist, Mirriam Saiwa.
“An economic assessment was done to see how we can boost these rural growth centres and we supported the formation of business groups, provided infrastructure targeting economically-active pro-poor to facilitate their increased income by ensuring that their products meet standards” she explained, adding that 353 business groups and 10 cooperatives have, so far, been trained.
Saiwa said LDF has engaged Small and Medium Enterprise Development Institute (Smedi) and Industrial Research Centre formerly Malawi Industrial Research and Technology Development Centre to conduct training in business management and skills development.
One of the beneficiaries, Grace Nyirenda at Jenda Trading Centre in Mzimba, is all praises as the project has transformed her life.
She narrated: “Never in my life did I imagine that I could be a proud owner of a decent house and livestock. But through the project, I am a proud owner of these things since joined Mtende Vegetable Group in 2011.”
Concurring with her is Kondwani Chirwa, a member of Tafwasa Bakery from the same area, who testified of an improved livelihood and those of his fellow group members.
Smedi business information specialist Hamida Banda has described the training the groups receive as timely.
“These groups have for some time been producing various products, but they don’t have an MBS [Malawi Bureau of Standards] certificate.
“It is only proper that they have one if their products are to be known and accessed by more people,” she said.