The Government of the Republic of Zambia (GRZ) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) have agreed to a ‘no cost extension’ of the Rural Finance Expansion Programme (RUFEP) for a period of one year.

The Financing agreement for RUFEP (2014-2022) between GRZ and IFAD dated 17th July, 2014 which was due for completion by 30th September, 2022 was extended by one year to 30th September, 2023.

The decision was made to allow for finalization of some activities that were delayed due to the COVID-19 Pandemic and to facilitate the design of a new follow up programme.

Following a request for a twelve month no-cost extension of RUFEP by the GRZ through the Ministry of Finance and National Planning dated 7th September, 2022, IFAD agreed to extend RUFEP for one year.

IFAD East and Southern Africa Division Regional Director Sara Mbago-Bhunu confirmed the extension of RUFEP in a statement to the Minister of Finance and National Planning Dr. Situmbeko Musokotwane dated 23rd September, 2022.

“I’m pleased to inform you that IFAD Management has approved the extension of project completion date from 30 September 2022 to 30 September 2023 and the financing closing date from 31st March 2023 to 31st March 2023”, Mbago-Bhunu said.

Meanwhile, IFAD Zambia Country Programme Officer, Dr. Brian Kapotwe said the IFAD Mission conducted from 15-23 September, 2022 for RUFEP was changed from a Completion Mission to a Supervision Mission in view of the extension.

Dr. Kapotwe said GRZ requested for an extension based on the good performance of the programme which was granted by IFAD to consolidate the current achievements and to mobilise more resources to upscale the successful elements of the programme.

“This mission was initially meant to be a Completion Mission. It was changed to a Supervision Mission following GRZ’s request for a one (1) year ‘no cost extension’ of RUFEP which was granted by IFAD”, he said.

Speaking during the Supervision Mission, Dr. Kapotwe said RUFEP’s final impact assessment will still be done to empirically quantify the impact of the programme and to generate lessons learnt to inform future interventions and policy reforms.

By September 2022, RUFEP had effectively reached a total of 643,449 beneficiaries of which 57% were women. The Programme Design had initially targeted 140,000 households as beneficiaries which later revised to 500,000 households at the Mid -Term Review (MTR) in 2018.

And RUFEP Programme Coordinator Michael Mbulo said the extension provides an opportunity for the smooth completion of activities by partners which had lagged behind due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

For Strategic Partners, among the activities pending includes the finalization of the MSME Finance Survey by BoZ conducted by ZamStats, the review of the Rural Finance Policy and Strategy by RFU, the development of a pilot wholesale agriculture value chain product by DBZ and the development of a centralized database for DFS usage by ZICTA”, he said.

Mr. Mbulo added that under the IOF Component, Zambia National Building Society (ZNBS), FINCA, UBA, EFC, Widenergy and Cattlemen Livestock Cooperative Society are some of the partners with pending activities to be completed during the extension