THE Community Markets for Conservation (COMACO) has projected to increase its annual turnover in product sales to US$5 million this year.
The company known for the ‘It’s Wild!’ brand, also expects to raise peanut butter production levels from the current 18 tonnes to 30 tonnes per week.
The targets would be achieved following the installation of a new peanut butter processing plant at Chipata office.
Eastern Province acting Permanent Secretary Royd Tembo who commissioned the plant, commended COMACO for its efforts in grooming and supporting small-scale farmers with skills and technologies to improve yields, diversify food and income sources.
Mr Tembo said COMACO’s model was critical in alleviating poverty among vulnerable communities in Zambia.
Meanwhile, government has entered into partnership with COMACO to share knowledge on new technology and collaborate directly to help expand the company to new areas and include more farmers.
“Various initiatives under this partnership agreement with COMACO include training seed growers in support of community seed banks, supporting these growers with improved foundation seed, construction of earth dams, and support for the crop purchasing revolving fund to improve COMACO’s market outreach,” Mr Tembo said.
He said these efforts would increase the country’s food basket.
COMACO founder and president Dale Lewis noted that the company’s successes would not have been possible without the support and partnership with the Government.
“Today, ‘It’s Wild! products are sold in supermarkets throughout the country and earn premium value for the small-scale farmers who help to produce them. I might add, over 2,400 firearms and over 80,000 snares that were being used to kill wildlife, have also been handed over voluntarily by poachers turned farmers,” Mr Lewis said.
Mr Lewis thanked small-scale farmers’ support to the company.
“Unlike before when so many small-scale farmers were dependent on food relief, we now find these same farmers supporting a growing agro-processing industry,” he said
COMACO board director Titus Kalenga said the company was a committed to the government’s mission to keep small scale farmers out of poverty.
Meanwhile, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) representative Mlotha Damaseke said the agency’s partnership with the Zambian Government and COMACO, help farmers to access markets and improve their agricultural practices so that they better their lives and contribute to the nation’s economic growth.
For example, COMACO had increased its processing capacity for peanut butter, soy blend and animal feed following the installation of a peanut butter processing plant.
As a result, peanut butter processing has increased from 36 tonnes to 60 tonnes per month; maize soy blend has risen from 65 tonnes to 95 tonnes per month and livestock feed is up from 66 tonnes to 105 tonnes per month.
The installation of this equipment has increased demand for these crops and provided a stable market to the farmers that are producing the raw materials for production of these things.
He said market driven agricultural development was hence essential in sustainably improving household food security in Zambia.
“We are honoured that the support from the American people through USAID, helped to renovate the processing plant, purchase the equipment and vehicles and promote value added products to help further economic development of the Eastern Province,” said Mr Damaseke.
COMACO is an agri-business model that targets small-scale farmers across large rural landscapes with markets, skills and incentives to help farmers adapt to climate change and reduce some of the primary causes like deforestation and soil degradation.
The company addresses some of the key farmer needs related to climate change by offering them a premium value for surplus food crops when they comply with appropriate technologies that help to minimise climate risks.
From the crops it buys, COMACO manufactures value-added food products under the brand ‘It’s Wild!’ to sustain the cost of this compliance-based incentive model.