Malawian Smallholder Farmers to Benefit from EUR 25 million (25 billion MWK) Agriculture Investment Scheme Launched by First Capital Bank and Team Europe


9th September, 2022

  • New initiative to strengthen access to finance, support job creation and enhance agricultural productivity
  • Malawi leading targeted European Investment Bank support for sustainable agriculture investment in southern Africa
  • Impact strengthened by agriculture and financial best-practice technical assistance

Smallholder farmers and rural cooperatives across Malawi will benefit from a new EUR 25 million long-term financing scheme to accelerate agricultural investment launched in Lilongwe on 9 September 2022

The commitment of the European Union under the KULIMA Agriculture support programme and details of the European Investment Bank’s first cooperation with First Capital Bank, through a new EUR 12.5 million credit line supporting EUR 25 million of new investment, were unveiled by Mr. Nations Msowoya, Ministry of Finance Acting Director Debt and Aid, First Capital Bank CEO Spyridon Georgopoulos and Thomas Östros, Vice President of the European Investment Bank visiting Malawi during his first official visit to southern Africa.

“Agriculture is central to social and economic life in Malawi. The new targeted investment launched by the European Investment Bank and First Capital Bank today will accelerate priority investment in rural communities and by agricultural businesses across our country creating jobs and unlocking new opportunities. Malawi is pioneering a model for agricultural investment that can benefit Africa.” said Mr. Nations Msowoya, Ministry of Finance Acting Director Debt and Aid.

“First Capital Bank is committed to building on our track-record of supporting agriculture across Malawi by improving access to finance, sharing best practice and innovation to unlock investment across the sector. First Capital Bank is pleased to join forces with the European Investment Bank to roll out Team Europe’s dedicated support for agriculture in our country. This new partnership will unlock agricultural investment, create employment, and unlock economic growth in Malawi in the years ahead.” said Spyridon Georgopoulos, Chief Executive Officer of First Capital Bank.

“Agriculture is crucial for economic activity and social development in rural communities across Malawi. The European Investment Bank is pleased to work with First Capital Bank to enabling smallholders and agriculture companies to invest through increased access to finance under this new EUR 25 million scheme. The first ever Team Europe cooperation between the European Investment Bank, European Union and First Capital Bank, will unlock a better future and create employment opportunities throughout the sector and be supported by sharing best-practice agricultural, gender and financial expertise. Together Team Europe and First Capital Bank are ensuring that smallholders can better tackle recent drought and extreme rainfall and can expand business and create opportunities and have a more secure future in the years ahead. The new Malawi initiative follows the successful launch of Team Europe recent support for agricultural investment in Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Kenya and we look forward to launching similar schemes elsewhere in Africa.” said Thomas Östros, European Investment Bank Vice President.

“Today Malawi and Team Europe are marking a new milestone in delivering a better future and more climate resilient future for agricultural communities across this country. The European Union is pleased to support the KULIMA programme that is unlocking transformational investment across the agricultural sector here in Malawi and across southern Africa” said Ambassador Rune Skinnebach, Head of the European Union Delegation to Malawi.

The financing scheme will be managed by First Capital Bank and is backed by the European Union and European Investment Bank, as part of the broader Team Europe support for sustainable commercialisation of smallholder farmers across Malawi and southern Africa.

The latest targeted support for agriculture in Malawi by the European Investment Bank, the world’s largest international public bank, will improve agricultural productivity, upgrade agricultural processing, and support a sector severely impacted by COVID-19 challenges and is supported by a best-practice assistance program.

At the Lilongwe launch the national importance of unlocking agricultural investment for Malawi, by improving access to long-term financing, was further highlighted by Spyridon Georgopoulos First Capital Bank Chief Executive Officer. He announced detailed of the new targeted support for agricultural investment and confirmed the engagement of First Capital Bank teams across the country to roll-out the new initiative.

Supporting investment by Malawian farmers and businesses during challenging times

The new financing will provide longer-term loans than normally available in both local and foreign currency. The scheme will be complemented by a European Union support programme including technical assistance, to support agricultural companies across Malawi. Access to finance by small holders and agricultural companies will be further enhanced by a risk-sharing facility backed by the European Union.

The 7-year EUR 12.5 million EIB loan to First Capital Bank in combination with the risk-sharing facility that was arranged with the strong support of the EU Delegation will allow EUR 25 million of new financing to be provided to small holders and private companies involved in agriculture across Malawi.

Under the initiative, First Capital Bank will provide financing in Malawian Kwacha, USD and EUR to eligible clients that will unlock investment that strengthens the overall competitiveness of Malawian agriculture.

Strengthening impact and opportunities for women through sharing best practice

The impact of the new EUR 25 million agricultural financing will be enhanced through best-practice shared under a dedicated technical assistance and training programme.

The Frankfurt School of Finance & Management, will support First Capital Bank in further strengthening their agricultural lending capabilities and enabling agricultural companies led by women and female smallholders to better access the new financing.

The technical assistance program will also support share inclusive and sustainable business practices to ensure that investment by smallholders contributes to poverty reduction, improved food security and more competitive and inclusive agricultural value chains.

Latest high-impact EIB engagement in Africa

The EIB has supported private and public investment across Malawi since 1978, including support for transformational water, energy, and transport projects, alongside financing business growth.

The European Investment Bank is the world’s largest international public bank, owned directly by the 27 European Union member states. Over the last five years the EIB has provided EUR 18 billion for private and public investment across Africa.

Background information

The European Investment Bank (EIB) is the long-term lending institution of the European Union owned by its Member States. It makes long-term finance available for sound investment in order to contribute towards EU policy goals.

Press contacts

EIB: Richard Willis,, tel.: +352 43 79 82155 / Mobile:  +352 621 55 57 58
Website: – Press Office: +352 4379 21000 –

First Capital Bank: Twikale Chirwa,, Phone: +265 (1) 821 943, Mobile: +265 999 931 769, website:

 EU Delegation: Grace Nachiola, Phone: +265 1 773 199 Ext; 254, Mobile: +265 999 222 745  –



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Operational Research on Integrating Nutrition in Farmer Field Schools (FFS)

By Dalitso Baloyi, Virginia Mzunzu Kwizombe, Ulemu Chiyenda and Mary Corbett


Self Help Africa (SHA) Malawi is implementing the ‘Better Extension Training Transforming Economic Returns (BETTER) program which is part of the KULIMA (Kutukula Ulimi Malawi) program, financed by the European Union. The BETTER project is a five-year (2018-2022) project being implemented in ten (10) districts by a consortium of four partner organisations: Self-Help Africa (Lead Agency), Plan International, Action Aid, and Evangelical Association of Malawi. The overall objective of the project is to increase resilience, food, nutrition, and income security of 402,000 smallholder farmers through 13, 400 Farmer Field Schools (FFS) approach. FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) is the responsible for the training/capacity building of master trainers and community-based facilitators as part of the FFS approach.

The program promotes nutrition-sensitive agriculture, to ensure the project yields maximum benefits on nutrition outcomes. This is done by integrating nutrition education in all the value chain activities in the FFS’s to ensure that participants receive adequate knowledge to link their food production with improved nutrition practices, while also promoting their ability to consume a diversified diet.


The research was conducted towards the end of 2021. The team used mixed and cross-sectional approaches to collect qualitative and quantitative data for the operational research. Participatory research approaches were used to gauge and explain (as well as make recommendations) on the overall functionality, effectiveness, efficacy, short and long- term nutritional benefits of the FFS.

Some Key Findings:

  • Participation in FFS is associated with a threefold increase in receiving skills on nutrition related topics such as formulating a meal plan, knowing a seasonal food availability calendar etc.
  • Participation in FFS was associated with high adoption of nutritional and WASH practices at household levels as compared to non-FFS participants. FFS participants were more likely than non-FFS participants to have a backyard garden, to own livestock and have fruit trees around their homes.
  • FFS participants were 3 times more likely to meet their minimum dietary diversity requirement than non-FFS participants (OR =3.592, p<0.001).
  • FFS participants were 3 times more likely to meet their minimum dietary diversity requirement than non-FFS participants (OR =3.592, p<0.001).

The links below include a short and long version of the study report.

FINAL Operational Research Integrating Nutrition in FFS web-short version (2)

FINAL Operational Research Integrating Nutrition in FFS

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The EU Officially Hands Over to the Government of Malawi Research Supplies Procured under the KULIMA Programme

On Tuesday 14 June 2022, the European Union in Malawi officially handed over to the Government of Malawi  research supplies procured under the KULIMA Prpgramme in 2020. The supplies were distributed to three Agricultural Reseach Station under the Ministry of Agriculture namely: Chitedze, Bvumbwe and Lunyangwa. The supplies, with a total cost of about MK670 million included laboratory equipment, ICT Equipment, laboratory consumables and protective gears. The supplies were officially handed over by the EU Ambassador to Malawi, His Excellency Rune Skinnebach and were received on behalf of the Governement of Malawi by the Minister of Agriculture Hon. Lobin Lowe at Chitedze Agrcultural Research Station in Lilongwe.

In his remarks, Hon. Lobin Lowe said the state of the art equipment is a game changer as far as agricultural research in Malawi is concerned. And in his remarks, the EU Ambassador strongly encouraged the Ministry of Agriculture to make full use of the laboratory supplies received  to improve generation and dissemination of technologies and deliver good quality services to Malawians small holder farmers.

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The KULIMA Programme Holds its 8th Programme Technical Committee (PTC) Meeting in Salima

The Kutukula Ulimi M’Malawi (KULIMA) Programme held its 8th PTC at Blue Waters Lake Resort in Salima on 19th May 2022. The objective of this meeting was to review progress in implementation for the period January-April 2022. The meeting, which was chaired by the Director of Agricultural Research Services Dr. Wilkson Makumba, was attended by all PTC members from the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Trade and Industry, European Union Delegation in Malawi, NAO Support unit of the Ministry of Finance, LUANAR, FAO, GIZ and Self Help Africa (SHA). The PTC members reviewed progress through progress reports that were presented by KULIMA Implementing Partners which are the KULIMA Multi Annual Programme Estimate (MAPE), FAO, NGO Consortium led by SHA, GIZ GIAE, GIZ MIERA, the European Investment Bank (EIB) and NIRAS.

Prior to the meeting, the PTC members visited visited KULIMA implementation sites in Nkhotakota and Salima on 17th and 18th May 2022 respectively. In Nkhotakota, the team visited Chitsanzo Farmer Field School (FFS) under FAO which is  undertaking a study on effects of manure options on rice yield; Pasavute FFS under the NGO Consortium which has been conducting variety trial for banana, Village Savings and Loans (VSL) and pineapple production among other activities; and a cassava seed multiplier, Veronica Liwewe, under GIZ GIAE. In Salima, the team visited Mlato banana group under KULIMA MAPE; Mpanje FFS under FAO on livestock production (goats); and Chisomo FFS  under the NGO Consortium on land conservation management and nutrition. The picture below shows PTC members interacting with Chitsanzo FFS in Nkhotakota under FAO.

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Ted Msokwa ,48, married and with 8 children has been farming for many years. He has been growing maize, soybeans and groundnuts. He always admired his friends who had a motorcycle but he was not able to produce enough so that he could raise income to buy the assets he wanted.

“When KULIMA BETTER came I learnt about how to develop a household vision with my family. So we sat down as a family and wrote down what we wanted to a chieve in three years’ time: a plough, oxcart, and a motorcycle. Although I have not yet got these assets, I am confident that by 2025 I will buy a motorcycle”

“As a community-based facilitator I have learnt a lot on improved technologies which have led to harvesting double the amount I used to on the same land I was cultivating. Last farming season I got 32 bags of 50Kgs and sold part of it and bought 2 goats amounting to MK32,000,” said Mr Msokwa.

Msokwa is a community-based facilitator for Twinong’one Farmer Field School (FFS) in Mwamkumbwa EPA T/A Mwabulambya in Chitipa district. The group has 13 members (9 females, and 4 males) and was established in 2019. Twinong’one Farmer Field School is currently doing a study on the effects of soil nutrient management on crop growth.

In 2020 the group grew some vegetables which were provided by the project and realised MK27,000 which they used to purchase 1 piglet at MK15,000. They started doing a livestock pass on initiative and their target is that every member should have a pig. Currently the group has managed to pass on 6 pigs to 6 members while 1 pig was sold at MK40,000 in 2021 and used the cash to purchase soya beans seed which was cultivated on 0.4 ha. Apart from that, they also planted groundnuts on a 0.4 ha as an Income Generating Activity for the group.

The group has plans to share the seeds to members so that they can also grow at household level. The remainder will be sold by the group while some will be kept for planting in the next season on a larger scale for income generation.

“Our aim is to excel as a group as well as a household that is why we work hard and share knowledge for prosperity in all aspects of life. We will not be the same in a few years to come” said Mr Msokwa, the group leader.

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Collaborating for enhanced agricultural extension services for sustainable agricultural production and productivity

Under the European Union funded KULIMA programme, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has since 2018 worked collaboratively with the Government of Malawi on farmer field school implementation to enhance agricultural extension and advisory services with the aim of improving agricultural production and productivity. 


Agriculture in Malawi is characterized by low production and productivity. Smallholder farmers face multiple challenges, including the negative impacts of climate change- flooding, prolonged dry spells and droughts, unreliable rainfall patterns, and the emergence of pests and diseases such as the fall armyworm and banana bunchy top disease. Agricultural advisory services therefore offer critical support for smallholder farmers in the face of such challenges.


Farmer field school (FFS) is recognized by Government, in the National Agricultural Extension Service strategy, as one of the strengths of the agricultural extension and advisory services subsectors. This year on 4th and 11th March 2022, sixty-two (62) agricultural extension workers and ninety-two (92) lead farmers graduated as farmer field school (FFS) master trainers (MT) and Community-Based Facilitators (CBF) respectively, from the FFS master trainers (MT) course, under the KULIMA Programme.


“Farmer field schools are essential in promoting agricultural technologies and good agricultural practices in the face of many challenges facing the agricultural sector in Malawi,” said the Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Dalitso Wirima Kambauwa. She added that the Ministry of Agriculture promotes the use of FFS to build capacity of farmers to achieve household food, income and nutrition security.

 Speaking of the contribution of KULIMA to Malawi’s vision of a highly productive and commercialized agriculture sector, FAO Representative, Zhijun Chen said:

 “The aspirations in Pillar 1 of the Malawi 2063 on agricultural productivity and commercialization are possible, only if we have a vibrant extension service, which is responsive to the unique and location specific needs of the farming communities.”

 The recent graduates are part of a broader plan that targets training of 600 FFS Master Trainers and 8 000 Community Based Facilitators will be trained who in turn will support at least 13 400 community outreach groups with over 400 000 productive farming families to improve their productivity, diversification and income generation.

 To date, 371 MTs and 366 CBFs have been trained.  Furthermore, 18-month long CBF courses are ongoing at 249 sites in communities in the ten districts where the project is being implemented which are Chitipa, Karonga, Mzimba, Nkhatabay Nkhotakota, Salima, Kasungu, Chiradzulu, Thyolo and Mulanje. The CBF courses are being facilitated by graduates from the first, second and third cohort with an enrolment of 7 558 CBF lead farmers.

 FFS training courses are being conducted at Lisasadzi, Thuchila, and Mzuzu residential training centres in Kasungu, Mulanje, and Mzuzu districts.

 Attendance at the March graduation event included the Deputy Minister as guest of honour, the Head of Corporation of the EU Delegation in Malawi, Ivo Hoefkens, government officials, partners from the Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centers, members of the press and FAO.


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Ridwell Mwanja, 49, is a Community Based Facilitator (CBF) of Witimba Farmer Field School in Chitipa. Mwanja became CBF for Witimba Farmer Field School in 2018, but before that he has been a lead farmer since 2003. Before the KULIMA BETTER project started, Mwanja confesses that he used to do most of the things without consulting his wife because he regarded her as a housewife who is only supposed to do whatever he wanted to do.

“Little did I know that I was missing out more from my wife and we were not making much profit from farming. But after we were trained in gender, I started involving my wife in decision making. This has resulted in improved yields and income because we work as a team from decision to implementation. We are also transparent to one another in terms of the money we make.

“I let my wife decide how we are going to use the money. My children also take part in reminding us our goal and what we need to do,” says Mwanja

Figure 1 Ridwell Mwanja and his wife from T/A Mwabulambiya Chitipa

The household approach aims at empowering household members engaged in farming to have better gender or power relations that will enable them to   have equitable access to and control over resources, assets, and benefits in order to improve their livelihoods. The famer field schools are trained on some gender dynamics and developing a vision for their households which lasts for three years. The members of the household describe where they are now in terms of resources and assets and where they want to be.

In Karonga, Jenala Silungwe 40, testified how her husband who had joined another group had completely changed the way he used to treat her at home. Before the household approach, he would not engage her in having access and control over resources and he would also beat her after getting drunk.

“I thank KULIMA BETTER that we have not only gained knowledge and skills, but it has also changed our men’s thinking, says Silungwe.

Mc Donald Silungwe from Msomba 2 village in Traditional Authority Kilupula in Karonga says he has become a better husband after the training in gender.

“One of the valuable skills I shall treasure in my life is the household approach. I am coming from a culture that treats a woman as a slave because of the lobola system and that had an impact on my life. We are now planning together, and I have also given my wife the power to decide what crop to grow”.

Silungwe is also the centre of people’s attention because he helps his wife with the cooking, something that others look at as abnormal.

KULIMA BETTER is using the Gender Action Learning System (GALS) Approach system with the aim of ensuring that women participate in decision making and have access and control over productive resources.

A recent study conducted by the project in 2021 showed that 27 percent of women jointly make decisions with their husbands regarding crops grown for consumption and 26 percent of women make joint decisions on crops grown for sale. About 23 percent of women can express themselves freely to their husbands concerning household issues and 34 percent of women have opportunities to speak publicly.

The study also revealed that some cultural beliefs are wrongly interpreted ultimately affecting the level of women’s participation in various project activities at household and community level. For instance, lobola is misinterpreted as the act of buying a woman. Lobola, the provision of gifts to the parents of a bride, usually in the form of cash or livestock, is an entrenched part of marriage in parts of Central and Northern part of Malawi.

Through the GALS approach, the project is sensitizing households and communities on the benefits of engaging women in household decision making. Furthermore, the project is working closely with gender champions to ensure that there is joint decision making at both household and community levels.

KULIMA BETTER is funded by European Union and is being implemented by a consortium of Four NGOs namely: Self Help Africa as lead agency, Plan International, Evangelical Association of Malawi, ActionAid Malawi. The aim of the project is to promote sustainable agricultural growth, increase incomes, employment opportunities, food, and nutrition security in Malawi despite changing climatic conditions. The project is currently reaching 380,991 smallholder farmers

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