Malawi leader says agriculture and economy are ‘one and the same’

President Joyce Banda has said agriculture and the economy are “one and the same” and that therefore it is important that as government modernises the economy, it essentially means starting with the modernisation of agriculture.

The Head of State made the remarks at Senior Chief Lukwa Headquarters in Kasungu on Saturday when she presided over the the national official launch of the Legume Seed Distribution under the Presidential Initiative on Poverty and Hunger Reduction in Malawi.

The theme of the launch was “Bringing Science and Technologies to the Grassroots for Wealth Creation and Economic Empowerment”.

President Banda noted there is a close relationship between agricultural productivity, economic growth and poverty reduction in Malawi.

“The agricultural sector remains the mainstay for growth and employment in the country as it accounts for about 36 percent of Growth Domestic Product, 87 percent of total employment and supplies more than 65 percent of the manufacturing sector’s raw material requirements and provides food for the nation.

President Banda give food handout in Kasungu

“Malawian agriculture, like elsewhere in Africa, is currently at a crossroad at which threats of climate change; poor infrastructure development and lack of modernisation strategy have hindered the economy to break the vicious cycle of underdevelopment,” she said.

According to the President, about 85 percent of the population lives in rural areas and deriving their livelihoods from agriculture. Much of the countryside is “deeply rural” in that it is still characterised by poor rural road network and poor physical, economic and social infrastructure, she noted.

“Our country, therefore, needs innovative strategies and programs to spur economic growth and generate enough jobs for our growing youthful population and to address challenges of urbanisation,” said President Banda.

The Head of State said on Friday, she launched the National Export Strategy, which focuses on enhancing our exports and that this strategy is key to the agriculture sector. Therefore, she said, there was an urgent need for the Ministries of Agriculture and Food Security, and of Industry and Trade and the Presidential Initiative on Poverty and Hunger Eradication to work very closely together and incorporate this strategy.

The President said her administration’s focus on agriculture is improving agricultural technology; commercialisation and promotion of regional markets; crop diversification; agri-processing and value addition, mobilisation and mentoring new crop of entrepreneurial leaders that are dedicated to the country’s agricultural improvement.

This, she said, will mean introducing policies and institutional changes necessary to promote agricultural innovation by incorporating research, developing skills and capacity from academia, private industry, NGOs and government in order to develop local knowledge and resources; increase agricultural output; and create markets.

“I want my Government to be remembered as one that modernised Malawi’s agriculture; as a Government that commercialised agriculture; as a Government that transformed the country’s agriculture sector and turning the country into a regional food basket,” she said.

The Malawi leader then said she established the Presidential Initiative on Poverty and Hunger Reduction to fast track the support for establishment of a transformative framework in the Agriculture Sector that will help to address systematic bottlenecks to existing agricultural programming and practices.

To strengthen agriculture and food security, she said priority “drivers” of agriculture growth had been identified by the Initiative, including the diversification of crops to include legumes such as groundnuts, soya, sugar beans, pigeon peas, sunflower; and rice, cassava and livestock development; and expanding irrigation including small irrigation projects to “aggressively” grow these crops twice a year, among others.

The launch of Smallholder Commercialisation Programme started with the distribution of the legume seeds. MK1.2 billion has already been spent in procurement and distribution of 1,527 metric tonnes of certified seeds, which should be able to grow 21,000 hectares of designated production clusters.

The project is expected to benefit 50,000 farmers nationwide and realise a total of 25,200 metric tonnes of legume grain.

Deputy Minister of Agriculture, James Ulemu Chilapondwa, Home Affairs Minister, Uladi Mussa, Ken Kandodo, MP for kasungu Central and Minister of Defence and Otria Moyo Jere, MP for Kasungu West were among the main speakers at the event.

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