Centre for Social Concern (CfSC) has challenged government to consider ‘depoliticizing’ Agriculture Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) failing which the institution will continue serving the interests of politicians and their cronies at the expense of the larger good.
The Centre’s executive director, Father James Ngahy observed that the grain marketor has the potential to improve its performance and be able to pull smallholder farmers out of abject poverty if politicians are stripped of authority over it.
Ngahy made the remarks in Lilongwe on Friday during a presentation on the role Admarc can play in advancing the right to food and poverty alleviation for Malawians.
He said CfSC, a faith-based organization working to transform the unjust structures through research and advocacy to ensure sustained change in policies for the betterment of all in line with their human dignity, says it is high time Admarc started working to benefit all Malawians unlike in the past decades when it used to serve the few ‘political zealots’.
He expressed disappointment that, over the two and half decades, influential politicians and a few politically-connected businesspeople have held the institution at ransom at the expense of the larger good.
“Admarc must be run by professionals. Politicians should not be involved in Admarc using it as a tool to siphon money from people. Admarc must stand for the benefit of all Malawians, and not few political zealots. With a reformed Admarc, all Malawians will appreciate and benefit from Admarc performance,” said Ngahy.
He observed that failure by Admarc to buy maize from smallholders farmers is a major contributing factor to the national food insecurity and deepening levels of poverty.
Ngahy said the government will be violating people’s rights to food if it does not reform the institution, adding that the efficiency of Admarc could help to increase food security and reduce poverty in the country.
“We are very worried that smallholder farmers sweat a lot to produce, but at the end of the day, they sell at a very low price. And at the end of the year, they have nothing to eat. That means they have to go to the very same vendors they sold their produce to where they now buy at a very exorbitant price. This has exacerbated the deepening of their poverty levels; hence, we are asking the government to change this status quo by bringing back the old Admarc that used to serve all people; and not, a few political zealots,” emphasized Ngahy.
“If the belly is empty, even the thinking becomes very low. That’s why we want to encourage Admarc to do better so that farmers can benefit from their labour and have enough to eat at all times so that they can enjoy that dignity of life. In the current set up, it is difficult to advance transparency and accountability at the institution. We think there should be a system which can be used to balance-check the activities of Admarc so that very few people that want to hold it, for instance politicians or other politically-connected powerful people, are not allowed to manage the operations of the corporation,” he added.
A local agricultural economist and development expert, Tamani Nkhono Mvula, said there is a need for Admarc to develop a marketing strategy that can help in operationalizing the National Agriculture Investment Plan (NAIP) and consolidating collaboration among the actors involved in the agriculture marketing development in the country.
Mvula also asked the government to develop a clear reporting line of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the institution, stressing that the current one is problematic and a recipe for confusion.
He observed that currently, the Admarc CEO reports to the board of the institution, the Minister of Agriculture and lastly the Statutory Corporation.
“Some of these things could also bring confusions in terms of how the management is supposed to operate. I gave an example of the maize-gate. There were some decisions, which were made, but the board itself was surprised that those decisions were made because the Minister of Agriculture had a direct say on the operations of Admarc, bypassing the board itself,” he said.
However, Mvula stated that Admarc can only be depoliticized if the government authority over the institution is reduced. As long as the government maintains 99 percent of shareholding in Admarc, then we still have a big problem,” said Mvula.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :