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Lusaka, Wednesday 20 July 2016: The Alliance for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa (ACTESA) has begun supplying fertilizer to rural agro-dealers in Zambia under a partnership signed with African Potash (AFPO) a UK based fertilizer business and public limited company.

Over 500,000MT of fertilizers are expected to be supplied to the COMESA region under the ACTESA/AFPO programme to support smallholder farmers to improve productivity for an initial period of 36 months since the signing of the agreement in August 2015.

The first deliveries of the fertilizer began on 9th July 2016 with supplies to agro dealers in Mkushi and Mumbwa districts in the central region of Zambia. These are some of the biggest farming regions in the country. Each agro dealer is expected to serve between 300  and 1,000 farmers.

"We are delighted to be working with African Potash and its associated partners, who have shown tremendous ability and passion in implementing this much needed program on the ground,” Mr. Argent Chuula, CEO of COMESA ACTESA said.

Speaking in Lusaka, Monday 18th July 2016, Mr Chuula said such projects will be replicated in other COMESA countries such as Malawi and Uganda as soon as the ongoing negotiations are concluded.

ACTESA has so far trained an extensive network of more than 7,000 agro-dealers under the COMESA Regional Agro-inputs Program (COMRAP) in business management skills and product management for accreditation as recognized agro-input distributors. COMRAP has for some years encouraged farming inputs such as fertilizers, seeds and chemicals for small scale farmers.

COMRAP is a €20 million programme implemented by ACTESA, a specialized COMESA institution, to promote the use of farming inputs such as quality fertilizers, seeds and chemicals for small scale farmers.

"This programme is a sustainable initiative which continues the excellent work of COMRAP and builds upon the initial investment. Its is expected that a minimum of one million farmers will access inputs through the COMESA ACTESA & AFPO program," Mr Chuula said "The importance and scale of this program cannot be overstated. The work we are doing here will help avert a looming humanitarian crisis."

Other partners in the programme include Nutri-Aid Trust, a non-governmental organization that is working with ACTESA and AFPO to introduce an extensive, fully trained agro-dealer network in Zambia. This will be the first of NGO’s and organizations expected to join the program.

"Nutri-Aid Trust continues to be supported by various organizations across the globe and is a reliable partner in this program, bringing with it a superb network of agro-dealers for us to supply on a commercial basis,” Mr. Mr. Chuula said.

He said deliveries to this network have successfully begun in addition to other supplies to independent agro-dealers across Zambia. It is expected that a minimum of one million farmers in the region will access inputs through ACTESA and AFPO program within the next two years. Mr Chuula said the demand for high performance fertilizer in Eastern and Southern Africa is rising fast and needs to be addressed quickly with cost effective, quality and reliable supply.

"The importance and scale of this program cannot be overstated. The work we are doing here will help avert a looming humanitarian crisis caused by heightening climate change,” Mr. Chuula said.

Under the COMESA/AFPO agreement, the parties agreed to work together to support and develop a common framework to finance supply and deliver at least 500,000MT of fertilizers for a period of 36 months after which the arrangement will be renewed by mutual agreement by all parties for a further period of up to 10 years.