THE Agriculture Marketing Authority (AMA) plans to facilitate the structuring of innovative financial instruments to enable smallholder farmers with no collateral to access finance and investment in a new strategy aimed at modernising subsistence agriculture.
The recently appointed AMA board has begun reorienting the institution’s strategic focus in order to turn the key parastatal into a driver of innovation within the agriculture sector from being primarily a collector of levies from farmers.
Board chair Mr Allan Majuru told The Sunday Mail that a recent strategic meeting with the Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement, Dr Anxious Masuka, resolved to undertake key initiatives over the next five years in line with the recently launched Agriculture and Food Systems Transformation Strategy.
“The general perception is that AMA only exists to collect levies without providing any valuable service to key stakeholders that include farmers, producers, processors and marketers of agricultural produce,” said Mr Majuru. Levies are critical in funding agricultural activities and allow smooth operations.
“However, the new way will see increased efforts towards encouraging fair practices and empowerment of various agro-industry players to succeed. This quest also calls for the authority to be accountable and answerable to stakeholders as well as providing skills and opportunities to farmers to pursue their agricultural endeavours.”
He said the availability and easy access to finance and investment for farmers will underpin the new strategy.
“Timely access to finance is critical for sustainable growth of agriculture. Smallholder farmers, who constitute the majority, face difficulties in accessing lines of credit from financial institutions due to lack of collateral. AMA will be at the forefront of structuring agriculture financing through various financial instruments possible.
“This money should be channelled mainly towards developing agriculture infrastructure such as irrigation technology and value chains to ensure their optimal performance.”
Mr Majuru said AMA had begun creating structured markets that promote efficiency in the marketing of agricultural produce.
He said the parastatal was working to quell the disorder in the marketing of agriculture produce, especially horticulture products.
“The agriculture sector has not been spared from the Covid-19 pandemic which is disrupting operations especially access to markets. To this end, the Authority will prioritise assisting farmers to deal with these challenges whose effects will be felt into the foreseeable future.
“At the heart of this lies the adoption of ICTs which facilitate agricultural growth for economic sustainability.
“This calls for channelling of resources not only towards acquiring and setting up of ICT infrastructure but also extensive training on use and maintenance. The Authority will also take the lead in development of local markets to increase access to all participants,” said Mr Majuru.
A real-time agricultural information management system, he said, is being created to enhance farmers’ easy access to information required for planning and decision making.
“AMA as the custodian of the national farming database is set to play a key role in resource planning and policy decision making.
“Agriculture productivity can be enhanced when information beneficial to farmers is made easily accessible and manageable,” said Mr Majuru. To this end, the authority will create a real-time, accurate and cost-efficient agricultural information management system integrated with the parent ministry and other parastatals and focusing on crops, livestock, and water and land systems by end of the year to help build competitive agriculture.”