Agricultural Transformation Summit discusses Malawi’s economic diversification strategies

tobacco 6The summit addresses challenges that smallholder tobacco farmers face as a result of reduced global demand for tobacco. (Image source: Putneypics/Flickr)The Agricultural Transformation Initiative (ATI) has co-hosted the first annual Agricultural Transformation Summit with Palladium from 4-5 December, aiming to support the diversification efforts of tobacco-dependent countries, beginning with Malawi

The two-day summit featured a series of discussions with major private sector leaders, research experts and government officials about how the agriculture sector in Malawi can strengthen alternative value chains and the overall ecosystem.

The summit also featured a pitch competition, an award ceremony, as well as the introduction of new partnerships. The pitch competition was led in collaboration with mHub, a local business incubator. Three young agri-preneurs participated in a competition and panel as a first step in the design and implementation of a three-year Agri-preneur Accelerator Programme that is due to launch in 2019.

Additionally, multiple announcements were made about new initiatives that will give Malawi partners opportunities to engage with the ATI. Among these enterprises is a partnership to help build the future human capital of Malawi's agricultural sector with the Rotary Club of Lilongwe through scholarships to students in the Agriculture Faculty of the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR).

“As the global demand for tobacco decreases, we believe it's imperative to support efforts to diversify economies and lessen the reliance of smallholder farmers on tobacco. This is particularly true in Malawi where tobacco accounts for over 60 per cent of the country's total annual earnings and 13 per cent of the economy as measured by the gross domestic product,” said Jim Lutzweiler, vice-president for agriculture and livelihoods, Foundation for a Smoke-Free World.

“The diversification of smallholder farmers can only succeed through inclusive business models that effectively connect them to markets, finance and technology in ways that provide much greater economic value to all actors in the ecosystem,” said Eduardo Tugendhat, director of thought leadership at Palladium. “This Summit and the ATI provide an excellent opportunity to leverage existing initiatives and resources in building solutions at scale.”

To ensure Malawi's economy can thrive despite a worldwide decline in tobacco demand and production, the ATI is working with smallholder tobacco farmers to facilitate the development of complementary structured value chains to make the agriculture sector globally competitive.

In October, the ATI issued two requests for proposals (RFP) in support of additional projects in Malawi. The first RFP asks eligible private sector firms, research institutions, other interested entities, and partnerships or consortia to submit proposals that present viable market-led solutions aimed at solving current challenges for transforming smallholder agricultural livelihoods in Malawi.

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