By Chancy Namadzunda:
Opportunity International Malawi has launched a project aimed at strengthening the supply and demand of financial services for marginalized and previously excluded rural populations in central and southern Malawi.
The project, “Strengthening Systems for Financial Inclusion in Rural Malawi,” is implemented in Malawi through Opportunity International Malawi with generous funding from the Jersey Overseas Aid and support from Opportunity International UK, Opportunity AgFinance and Opportunity DFS.
Speaking at the official launch at a Stakeholders’ Engagement meeting in Nkhotakota on Thursday, Opportunity International Malawi Country Director for Richard Chongo said that poverty is an evil that must be uprooted, as such his organization is excited about this project which seeks to create sustainable pathways out of poverty for people that are living in poverty.
Through this project, Opportunity International Malawi is working to alleviate poverty and increase the economic well-being of at least 24,000 rural entrepreneurs and smallholder farmers by strengthening their capacity to generate income, to manage their finances and have access to sustainable financing, increase food security and to cope with external shocks through at least 1,200 village savings and loans associations (VSLAs).
Chongo said training in financial literacy and digital financial services will give the rural poor the trust, skills, knowledge and crucially confidence they need to access financial services and independently manage their finances. Enhancing access to and use of digital technologies will also accelerate financial inclusion in rural areas and promote effective linkages between VSLAs and financial service providers whilst a bespoke curriculum of gender awareness training will serve to enhance mutual understanding and enable a shift in mentality towards (and within) rural women and men.
“Opportunity International will also work with at least four regulated Financial Service Providers (FSPs) in Malawi to identify capacity gaps, develop innovative, pro-poor products and services, manage risk and stimulate institutional change leading to inclusive financial service provision,” he said
Minister of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare Patricia Kaliati thanked Opportunity International Malawi for this project which will bridge the gap of access to finance in rural areas while promoting the livelihoods of rural households most of which are women.
Opportunity International’s Global Head of Agriculture Finance Tim Strong and Opportunity International UK’s Senior Programmes Manager Lydia Baffour Awuah agreed that Malawi remains a priority country for Opportunity International and they look forward to continuing to work with the government to contribute to the nation’s development plans.
Nkhotakota District Commissioner Ben Tonho and Traditional Authority Kanyenda welcomed the project in the district and encouraged other organizations interested in human development to follow suit in supporting Nkhotakota’s development plan.
The stakeholder engagement meeting gathered representatives from all relevant government ministries, financial service providers, district councils, non-government organizations, traditional leaders, and VSLA representatives.
The project is being implemented in four districts of Nkhotakota, Dedza, Zomba, and Mulanje running from September 2021 to August 2024 with a total funding amounting to MK1,827,189,471.
Opportunity International Malawi works with people living in poverty especially smallholder farmers and rural entrepreneurs to help them move out of poverty through programs that focus on poverty graduation approaches, community based financial organisations, and linkages to microfinancing interventions.
Opportunity Malawi implements a cost-effective outreach platform the Farmer Support Agent Network that utilizes community geniuses to support solutions for their own communities, including the flagship women and youth in business, peer-to-peer mentoring program, which leverages experienced community business persons to build the capacity of small-scale businesswomen and youths. In all these, access to finance and gender inclusion cut across.