TRYNESS TEMBO, Lusaka
A CONSORTIUM of agro firms and an international financier have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to support small-scale farmers and to encourage the growth of entrepreneurial, independent agro-dealers in Zambiaâ€™s agriculture sector.
The consortium comprises Cargill and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Zambia Production, Finance, and Improved Technology Plus (PROFIT+) Programme.
Under the MoU, PROFIT+â€™s network of over 300 independent agro-dealers in Eastern Province will replace the services currently provided to farmers by Cargill such as seeds, fertiliser, extension services and training to farmers.
According to a statement availed to the Daily Mail on Wednesday, Cargill will re-focus on its core strengths and capabilities in grain and oilseeds origination, merchandizing and trading.
Cargill will also provide market access for small-scale farmers by purchasing soybeans, maize and cotton through the PROFIT+ agro-dealer network. This will allow both firms to focus on their core capabilities and lead to a more effective service to farmers.
Commenting on the development, Cargillâ€™s commercial lead in Zambia, Lezanne van Zyl, said, â€œThe collaboration between Cargill and PROFIT+ will support the growth of entrepreneurial, independent agro-dealers in Zambia and means that small-scale farmers will continue to have access to crop inputs, extension services and a reliable market for their crops.
â€œWe are optimistic that this new era of partnership will enable key players from the public and private sectors to work together to develop Zambiaâ€™s agricultural value chains and strengthen its food systems.â€
Meanwhile, USAID PROFIT+ field team leader Alex Pavlovic said building on Cargillâ€™s efforts presents an opportunity for rural agro-dealers engaged in agricultural and inputs trade to grow their businesses, employ more people and reach more farmers with quality services, inputs and access to market.
Mr Pavlovic said the shift in strategy should boost local economies and directly impact the yields and profits of smallholder farmers.
â€œThese changes will unfortunately impact around 200 employees and Cargill will follow the required Zambian processes, ensuring that each employee is treated with dignity and respect,â€ he said.
Currently, PROFIT+ supports over 200,000 small-scale farmers in Zambia.
TRYNESS TEMBO, Lusaka