The Centre for Agricultural Transformation (CAT) has urged small scale farmers to diversify and start growing crops such as Industrial Hemp other than just relying on tobacco.
Speaking on 1st December, 2020 at BICC in Lilongwe during the business incubation partnership cocktail organised by CAT in partnership with ATI, CAT Country Director Macleod Nkhoma said Malawi relies very much on tobacco and there is need to change mindset and start growing other crops that may bring much money in the country.
“As you are aware that this country has relies much on tobacco and if you look at income on tobacco it has been going down so we would like to see that there are various value chains where farmers can diversify into, not just relying on tobacco. In doing so it means we are ensuring our country of foreign exchange earning but also farmers themselves once they diversify their livelihoods it means they will have income alternatives from those other value chains,” said Nkhoma.
He also noted that as CAT they are much interested to help farmers to grow industrial hemp and they are really trying hard in convincing farmers to venture into that field.
“So if you look at industrial hemp is just one value chains that is alternative so with that it actually opens an avenue for our farmers to consider that as one of the value chains that they can venture into,” said Nkhoma.
He also mentioned groundnuts as one of the crops which farmers can venture into in order to replace tobacco which has been dominating in terms of foreign earnings.
During the business incubation, CAT awarded its first cohort of 18 agri-enterprises to be incubated under its business incubation and commercialization unit.
The 18 enterprises will cover several value chains including groundnuts, soya bean, apiculture, mushroom, rice, industrial hemp and livestock.
With funding from Foundation for Smoke Free World through the Agricultural Transformation Initiative (ATI), CAT will disburse a total of US$1 Million US dollars to all 18 enterprises with disbursements ranging from ranging from 10,000 US Dollars to 100,000 US dollars
CAT Country Director Macleod Nkhoma said at first there were over 180 applicants and that was shortlisted to 65 and then it was shortlisted to 34.
“Our investment committee analysed the businesses of the remaining 34 and what you have seen this evening is that 18 of the businesses have actually received certificate of partnership with us and we will be funding them to the total amount of the out flow,” said Nkhoma.
In her remarks, Agriculture Transformation Initiative (ATI) Country Director Candida Nankhumwa said the partnerships have demonstrated the need to work together in order to transform agriculture.
“What we have seen tonight is that we have a lot of businesses that are led by women, youth and that’s exciting for us. The other exciting part is the range of the value chains that are being targeted, we have seen that some are looking at industrial hemp, some at legumes, so that’s really exciting because the challenge that we have with dependency of tobacco we really don’t want to just promote one value chain.
“We have a challenge ahead of us and what we need to do is to identify multiple value chains and develop those into something that can contribute to bridging the gap that is being created as the revenue for tobacco continues to decline then the revenue from these multiple value chains can begin to fill in these gaps and keep our economy afloat,” said Nankhumwa.
One of the awardees, Global Seeds Managing Director Shane Phiri assured of continued production of improved and disease resistant seeds.
Phiri said their enterprise is the main supplier of certified seeds including drought tolerant seed which includes hybrid maize, groundnuts, beans, soya and pigeon peas among others.
Center for Agricultural Transformation (CAT) is a hub designed to support diversification of Malawi agriculture and increase small holder revenues by easing reliance on the tobacco value chain through awareness, deployment and commercialization of demand and data-driven research, Innovations, technologies and partnership.