Farmers Forum for Trade and Social Justice (Fafotraj) last week said Malawi needs a comprehensive financing package for the agricultural sector to address other critical problems such as rising youth unemployment.
Fafotraj was commenting on the $30 million (K5.01 billion) loan the World Bank board approved on Thursday for the development of agriculture, mainly to ensure the country diversify from the predominantly maize and tobacco-based production systems to the growing of market-driven commodities with potential for exporting.
The loan is expected to enable 200 000 smallholder farmers to improve their incomes and become more food secure. The initiative will also help Malawi improve its export base which is currently mainly based on tobacco.
The $30million credit is additional financing (AF) to the Agriculture Sector Wide Approach Support Programme (ASWAp-SP). The funds are additional to an initial $32 million credit provided in 2008 to what was then the Agriculture Development Programme â€“ Support Project (ADP-SP), now ASWAp-SP.
Fafotraj executive director Calvin Kamchacha said there is need to maximise efficiency and impact of such grants.
â€œIt is important to note that Malawi has a unique growing population of youth withÂ 48 percentÂ under 18 years (NSO 2008), 60 percent under the age of 20 years and 75 percent under the age of 30 years (MPVA: 2006).
â€œAlthough young people constitute a larger constituency of the population, the majority are not employed as the country is only able to create 30 000 jobs per year against the 130 000 required.
â€œIt is, therefore, imperative to innovate how aid towards agriculture would support the engagement of youth in the sector to create self-employment for their sustainable livelihood,â€ said Kamchacha.
He said agriculture as a business presents a lot of investment and employment opportunities to the majority of the youths mainly in the rural areas where industries are almost non-existent.
â€œAmong other areas in the value chains, youth can engage in input supply as agro-dealers, primary production, agro-processing and storage, marketing and distribution, and transport and logistics.
â€œIn order to transform the agricultural sector, ensure competitiveness and raise its contribution to the countryâ€™s GDP and boost foreign exchange earnings, we need innovation and creativity in all the value chain segments which the youth operating in todayâ€™s ICT world are most capable.
â€œIt is important to realise that a scale-up of value addition as well as aggressive marketing in the sector which involves a combination degree of science and art will come from the youths whoÂ are flexible, energetic and entrepreneurial,â€ said Kamchacha.
The recent roll-out of the pilot Malawi Agribusiness Youth Programme (Mayop) by Fafotraj, which involved training of 5 000 youths to engage in agribusiness in Zomba and Thyolo affirmed that the youth are more ready to drive modern agriculture as a business to usher Malawi into the next level of economic boom and contribute to African Green Revolution and the agenda under Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (Caadp).