United States African Development Foundation (USadf), an independent US agency that provides grants, has given Lower Shire Rice Secondary Cooperative Society a grant amounting to $241 738 (about K177 million) to boost rice output.
The grant, which will be disbursed over a five-year period, will assist the cooperative to procure farm and production equipment, establish a farm input revolving and crop purchase fund, training and technical assistance.
The money is expected to help about 600 rice growers in Nsanje and Chikwawa districts under the group, which comprises five cooperatives in the two districts.
Speaking during the signing of the grant last week, USadf country programme coordinator Linda Ndovie Jere asked members of the cooperative to use the money appropriately to achieve the desired results.
She said USadf expects the cooperative to have branded rice to sell in super markets to boost their earnings to ensure positive trickle-down effect.
“If utilised well, this will be a sustainable business. We have worked with one of the cooperatives that is making up the Lower Shire Rice Secondary Cooperative Society and we hope they will do as they previously did.
“What we want at the end of the day is for their livelihoods to improve. If they use this money wisely, surely their livelihoods will change for the better and they will prosper in the end,” she said.
The cooperative’s chairperson, Kingsley Phiri, thanked the US agency for the grant, describing it as a life charger.
“This is the beginning of better things for our cooperative. Previously, we faced a number of challenges ranging from lack of farm inputs to markets to sell our produce. Worse still, we did not have the technical know-how of executing best farming practices.
“We are thus hopeful that we will now have farm inputs on time and get better yields. In the end, we see farmers improving their incomes which will certainly mean better livelihoods for us all,” he said.
On his part, Shire Valley Agriculture Development Division programme manager Taurai Mulewa expressed optimism that the grant will improve incomes for farmers in the district, saying the development complements government’s sefforts in trying to reduce poverty levels. n