Candida Nakhumwa -ATI Country Director (2)
By Patience Abeck
LILONGWE-(MaraviPost)-While Malawian farmers have long leaned on tobacco crops as their primary source of income, a comprehensive plan is needed to prepare them for an era of significantly reduced demand for tobacco.
In partnership with Agricultural Transformation Initiative (ATI), the organisation which aims to diversify tobacco-dependent economies, a new pilot program is underway in the Mchinji and Lilongwe districts to provide technology-enhanced finance and training extensions for tobacco farmers.
The program addresses capital and resource barriers, access and training for alternative value chains, development of business plans, and gender challenges for women smallholder farmers.
To stimulate supply and demand for farmers working with alternative crops, the initiative will offer access to capital for farmers to expand their businesses, along with the technology and training required to increase production and profits.
Key project components include the development and delivery of a range of financial products tailored for farmers, crop-specific training to maximize end-market opportunities, innovative video training on best agricultural practices, and financial literacy training.
Opportunity is partnering with First Capital Bank Malawi, Horizon Farm in Lilongwe, Pyxus International, and other key stakeholders on this initiative.
Recent focus group discussions in the Mchinji and Dowa districts showed that women face crucial challenges in Malawian tobacco farming, including insufficient access to farm loans, crop selection biases, and lack of representation in contract farming and cooperative operations.
Because 30% of the pilot program participants are women, Opportunity will include a component to address gender dynamics.
The project will consist of a financial literacy and life skills curriculum, financial planning for families, multiple banking options, and equal representation in agricultural training tools.
“Opportunity International has been partnering with smallholder farmers in Malawi for the past 15 years, and we are excited to continue to learn from them through this initiative. Farmer voice and farmer choice underpin our work and, together with our partners, we look forward to co-investing with our clients, their families, and their communities to share risk in uncertain market times,” said Tim Strong, Head of Agriculture at Opportunity International.
“The Agricultural Transformation Initiative is dedicated to supporting the efforts of smallholder tobacco farmers to diversify their crop portfolio,” said Candida Nakhumwa, Country Director, Agricultural Transformation Initiative.
“Opportunity International has successfully developed initiatives that benefit farmers, and this partnership will allow us to provide new and innovative solutions to tobacco farming communities in Malawi.”
Opportunity International is a global microfinance nonprofit organization committed to ending extreme poverty and promoting quality education for families in need.
Since 1971, Opportunity has helped millions of families work their way out of poverty by providing financial resources, training, and delivering ongoing support to start small businesses, earn living wages, and feed their families.
The organization provides loans to families seeking tuition assistance and educators who want to improve local schools.
In 2017, Opportunity International issued nearly $1.6 billion in loans, reaching nearly 11 million clients in 23 countries, and helped fund 1,800 schools serving more than 500,000 children.
While the Agricultural Transformation Initiative (ATI) is a core pillar of the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, Inc., an independent, U.S. nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to improve global health by ending smoking in this generation.
Recognizing that the Foundation’s mission entails an accelerated decline in global tobacco demand, the ATI aims to diversify tobacco-dependent economies.
The Foundation has received contributions from Philip Morris International (PMI) in 2018 and 2019 each in the amount of US$80 million. PMI has pledged to contribute US$80 million annually for the next ten years.
Under the Foundation’s Bylaws and Pledge Agreement, PMI and the tobacco industry, generally, are precluded from having any control or influence over how the Foundation spends its funds or focuses its activities.
The Foundation’s acceptance of the contributions does not constitute an endorsement by the Foundation of any of the pledger’s products.