THE African Development Bank (AfDB) has approved a loan of US $30 million to the Zambian Government for the skills development and entrepreneurship project supporting women and youth.
The project was designed to promote job creation, gender equality and poverty reduction among young cassava producers to enable inclusive economic growth and sustainable livelihoods development.
According to a statement, the project would also support Government’s efforts to urgently reduce extreme poverty and unemployment among the youth.
Masses of the working poor, particularly women, in rural areas constituted a major development challenge for Zambia, the statement said.
The project, which would be implemented in seven provinces, would develop 10 industrial clusters – five urban and five rural.
This is to improve the competitiveness of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the light manufacturing sector which includes metalwork, woodwork, leatherwork, building, vehicle maintenance and agro-processing.
These industrial clusters would provide 1,000 MSMEs with business and technical skills as well as access to technology and innovation for product development and market linkages.
The industrial clusters would also provide business development services, linkages with financial institutions and incubation centres.
The project would also support the development of the cassava value chain with a focus on the commercialization of cassava products through local and regional market linkages, technology and innovation and enabling Government policy reforms.
The industrial clusters would equip 17,000 cassava farmers’ associations and cooperatives with business and technical skills for the production and the commercialization of cassava products to ensure high yields accompanied by timely and efficient production and storage capacity.
In addition, the project would finance the construction of 15 cassava bulking centres, five of which would be equipped for the piloting of the production of fortified ‘‘garri’’ or cassava meal by a cooperative of 500 women.
Spillover benefits of increased production of cassava will contribute to food security in the region, and improved nutrition and early childhood development through fortified cassava products in school-feeding programmes.