Some 250 smallholder rice farmers in Karonga are expected to benefit from a rice value chain development project aimed at generating income and improving rice productivity.
The K105 million (about $420 000) pilot project is being implemented by an international non-governmental organisation, Comitato Internationale Per Lo Svillupo Dei Popoli (Cisp) with support from the Inter-Church Organisation for Development Cooperation (Icco).
Cisp project manager Luca Desideri said in an e-mail response on Friday the project will involve strengthening farmersâ€™ bargaining power through improved and increased rice supply.
He said the project, which runs for 18 months, will involve 250 farmers from Wovwe, Lufira and Hara irrigation schemes.
“Karonga accounts for the greatest rice farming production in the country, but farmers are severely hampered by low prices offered by buyers, most of them from neighbouring Tanzania. The overall aim of this project is to increase local and regional sales for Kilombero and Super Faya brands. We also want to improve the productivity and rice quality so that smallholder farmers are able to bargain for fair prices,” said Desideri.
He said through the project, farmers will form village savings and loan associations (VSLAs) to save money that would enable them to access credit for buying necessary farm inputs.
“Savings are crucial since the main challenge faced by the farmers is the lack of money at the time of harvest which in most cases forces them to sell their rice to the first buyer,” said Desideri.
Cisp will also connect these farmers to some microfinance institutions where they can get loans to boost their farming.