Agriculture Commercialisation (Agcom) Project has disbursed only K1.2 billion to farmer organisations out of the K23 billion matching grants.
Government contracted a $95 million (about K70 billion) World Bank credit facility to transform the agricultural smallholder sub-sector from subsistence to commercial orientation for six years from 2018 to 2023.
Out of the $95 million, $30 million (about K23 billion) is matching grants for farmers where they contribute 30 percent of their initial capital while 70 percent is provided by the project.
The remaining $65 million (about K48 billion) is for project operations and infrastructure development such as irrigation schemes, roads to connect farmers to markets and in some instances, providing electricity for farmer group’s need to run value addition machinery.
Speaking during cheque presentation to 20 farmer groups in Mangochi on Friday,
Agcom national coordinator Ted Nakhumwa decried the slow uptake by producer organisations which he said was due to a lack of technical expertise to present viable funding proposals.
He said: “We are not impressed with progress simply because we started late, the speed with which producer organisations are matching us, the 30 percent is slow.
“We are doing a lot of campaigns, which is why we are giving out these cheques publicly to entice others, we are not happy but we are confident we will deliver by 2023.”
Nakhumwa said Agcom has recruited brokers to help farmers in preparing viable proposals to increase uptake of the funds to ensure that come 2023, the funds will be injected in the agriculture sector.
Ministry of Agriculture Principal Secretary Erica Maganga said it was pleasing to note that the project has great potential to create more jobs for youths and women.
She said: “We would like to see farmers getting more returns on investment as well as venture into more viable value addition.”
One of Mangochi beneficiary organisations, Fishland Ladies treasurer Martha Chikwezga said Agcom has transformed their business as they are now able to do value-addition to fish targeting major retail outlets.
Agcom is targeting all viable value chains in crops such as soya beans, beans, groundnuts, rice, tea, coffee, bananas, mangoes, chillies, tomatoes and vegetables; livestock and fisheries.
The project is working with producer organisations that have formed productive alliances with off-takers through a commercial agreement and to date, 42 producer organisations have been approved for the matching grants awards.
The project aims to graduate 650 000 farmers from mere subsistence to commercial farmers in the stipulated six-years.a