By James Mwale
President Lazarus Chakwera has hailed the Agricultural Commercialisation (AGCOM) project,saying it is critical for sustainable rural and national economic development.
He was speaking Thursday at Chinthembwe Primary School in the area of Traditional Authority Vuso Jere in Ntchisi Districtwhere he presided over the launch of the second phase of the project, dubbed AGCOM 2.
Under the project, which promotes farming for business purposes, smallholder farmers with a common cause group into cooperatives and apply for grants whose 30 percent is the cooperatives’ contribution as matching grant.
Giving his address, Chakwera said: “Today we are launching a programme intended to fund those that are serious about venturing into commercial farming. With support from World Bank and other partners like the Global Agriculture and Food Security Programme and Multi Donor Trust Fund, we are taking our vision of mass production of value chains for exports to the next level.”
He went on to criticize some quarters of society who embrace laziness by relying on handouts, saying the country will invest in those who are willing to work hard for their earning and not giving handouts to people whose appetite for consumption is never satisfied.
“We are living in a very serious situation in which we must prioritize funding those who are willing to use the little money we have to grow something, build something and to produce something of value which will generate even more money for our country,” said Chakwera, adding that the US$295 million funded AGCOM 2 programme is for those who want to work onthe land God gave them to produce something of value.
Speaking earlier, World Bank Country Manager Hugh Riddell said the second phase has been funded following impressive results from the first phase, and he committed to more support from World Bank towards government’s economic advancement initiatives.
He said the six-year project was a milestone he hoped would be delivered with even better excellence than the preceding one and added that it was encouraging to note elements of women empowerment, with 57 percent of total farmers under the project being women.
Also present at the occasion was chairperson for Ntchisi East Coffee Cooperative, Nickson Chindugwa, whose coffee processing facility came through funding from the first phase of the project.
Chindugwa appreciated how AGCOM has transformed his economic life and that of his cooperative members. He said his coffee processing efforts were not yielding much with the manual coffee processing machine he was using earlier, saying now he was processing more and has started eying international markets.
Farm activities under AGCOM include goat farming, bee-keeping and mushroom farming.