Zimbabwe's three poorest provinces are set to benefit from a U.S.$ 7.2 million rural livelihoods project fund aimed at eradicating poverty through a loan facility for local entrepreneurs.
The OPEC Fund for International Development, a funding package meant to promote optimization of local resource endowment cooperatives will benefit the three country's poorest provinces, Manicaland, Matabeleland and Masvingo.
Under the Zimbabwe SME Project, beneficiaries will access loans of up to US$50 000 with a 15 percent interest rate per annum, payable, in local currency at current interbank rate, after twelve months from commencement of project.
Project Economist, David Matuke said to date the fund has distributed close $1 million to beneficiaries in sectors of livestock development, processing, savings and credit cooperative, to aid local entrepreneurs.
He said the project will also enhance capacity of target beneficiaries through strategic partnerships with training institutions to develop business development skills.
"Government is implementing a USD 7,6 million project, which is a loaned to government by OFID, it is being implemented in all districts of Masvingo, Manicaland and Matabeleland provinces, which were selected on basis that there are the poorest.
"Beneficiaries can get up to US$50 000,00 in hard currency but repayment will be in Zimbabwean dollars at 15 percent per annum, calculated at current interbank rate.
"The project is targeting poverty eradication through livestock development, optimization of local resource endowment, savings and credit cooperatives and strengthening of three selected entrepreneurial institutions," said Matuke.
Matuke said they are targeting flagship projects with a potential to establish value chains upstream and downstream to enhance sustainability of small scale businesses.
He said the project will also target three training institutions responsible for training beneficiaries in various technical aspects of project management, business principle as well as good agriculture practices.
"The project scope is looking to sponsor flagship projects to enhance ripple effects for other stakeholders, so we target projects which also have a potential for advancing downstream industry, so that others can also emulate such projects.
"Our main target are clients in livestock development, cattle fattening, poultry, goats, beekeeping, optimization of local resource endowment, savings and credit cooperatives and strengthening of three selected entrepreneurial institutions," said Matuke.
He added, "We have already engaged an institution in Manicaland and the modalities are underway, these will be responsible for training project beneficiaries in various areas of business development."
Manicaland's Provincial Development Coordinator, Edgar Seenza said this project augurs well with the provincial development template which places emphasis on value addition of natural resources.
Seenza said the high prevalence of poverty in Manicaland was a paradox given vast endowment of natural resources in the province, as he urged prioritization of women beneficiaries.
"We receive with great pleasure and passion the news of the OFID Poverty Alleviation program, especially as it has a bias towards harnessing rural resource endowments, which the province takes pride in.
"I am deeply saddened that this province, with its vast and rich resource base, still features in the list of provinces with high prevalence of poverty, Manicaland has 70.6 percent poverty prevalence with 17.7percent of our people living in extreme poverty.
"I take joy in this project, as I see it giving us a lot of mileage in achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs) for the country. I understand the plight of women in rural areas, please involve them, empower them and capacitate them to do business," said Seenza.
Two calls for applications have received 670 submissions from the three provinces with 75 projects, worth a combined total of US$962,000,00 approved and funds disbursed to 30 project beneficiaries.