The World Bank (WB) Board of Executive Directors on Friday approved an International Development Association (IDA) credit of $ 89.4 million (K35.7 billion) to support efforts of governments of Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia to boost food and farm productivity.
Agriculture is the largest sector in the economies of the three countries and a major source of livelihoods for an estimated 277 million people living across southern Africa, said the bank in a statement.
In Malawi, agriculture is central to the country’s economy and national life, occupying 86 percent of its workforce, and making up 38 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) and 90 percent of its export earnings.
Raising agricultural productivity is thus critical for fighting poverty, achieving food security and protecting the environment.
“Africa is taking major strides to improve its farm economy which is necessary for building shared prosperity.
“This programme will finance strategic investments that will empower farmers with cutting-edge knowledge while increasing regional cooperation in agricultural research across southern Africa,” said Tijan Sallah, WB sector manager for agriculture and irrigation in Malawi and Zambia.
The funding will help to establish regional centres of leadership for major food staples including maize, rice and food legumes, build agricultural research capacity, support regional collaboration in technology dissemination, boost farmer training and intensify knowledge-transfer activities. At least, 30 percent of targeted farmers will be women.
The project is fully aligned with the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (Caadp) and supports its call for scaling-up regional collaboration in agricultural research and development as a way to efficiently address capacity constraints and increase technology spillovers in the rural economy.
Besides targeting farmers and livestock producers, the programme is expected to directly benefit agricultural researchers, extension agents, seed producers and farm input suppliers.
“The agricultural sector has a strong influence on growth, employment, food security and poverty reduction efforts benefiting the entire economy.
“We look forward to the successful implementation of this innovative project that takes a farmer-centric approach to development and dissemination of improved crop varieties and promising farm practices,” said Michael Morris and Melissa Brown, WB co-task team leaders.
The Agricultural Productivity Programme for Southern Africa will also provide a $0.6 million grant to the Centre for Coordination of Agricultural Research and Development for Southern Africa (Ccardesa).