KABANDA CHULU, Lusaka
COMMUNITY Markets for Conservation (COMACO) has invested over US$4 million at its Chipata plant, where soya beans and groundnuts are processed into flour and peanut butter respectively.
COMACO is implementing a business model that is striking a balance between increasing incomes and livelihoods for smallholder farmers and conserving the environment through practising sustainable methods of agriculture.
Currently, a total of 167,400 farmers from 70 cooperatives in the 67 chiefdoms that surround the Luangwa Valley and adjacent areas are members of COMACO.
In an interview last week, COMACO chief executive officer Dale Lewis said the business model aims at unlocking the potential of small-scale farmers.
“The model is workable for both skilled and unskilled farmers. The farmers are exposed to lessons about preserving good soils, forests and growing the right crops.
“We believe markets and conservation can work together, hence this model which is turning farmers into a solution for both the environment and the economy while reducing risks of poverty and hunger,” he said.
Mr Lewis said COMACO products are marketed under the brand name of ‘Its wild’ and are now ready to be exported.
“We are able to add value to various commodities at the Chipata hub, where we have invested over US$4 million to install processing equipment and machinery. There has been positive response to our products in the country,” he said.
The company is having discussions with South Africa, Botswana and Namibia to establish real trade links, with exports expected to start this year.
And COMACO regional manager Smith Kapeya said the plant has capacity to store 5,000 tonnes of grains.
“There is more income when value is added to the crops. Our machinery processes 120 tonnes of peanut butter per week, and we are discussing with Zambia Development Agency for possible linkages to export markets,” he said.
Notable products that are processed include peanut butter, soya flour, stock feeds,among others.
Recently, World Bank vice-president for Africa Makhtar Diop, country manager Ina-marlene Ruthenberg and Minister of Finance Felix Mutati visited farmer fields and marketing centres for COMACO.