Cisanet holds conference to reflect on Malawi 50 years in agriculture

The Civil Society Agriculture Network (CISANET) will hold a two day National Conference whose theme is Malawi Agriculture at 50: Towards a Common Vision for the Next 50 years.

CISANET is a policy advocacy organisation, working on agriculture and food security policy issues, affecting not only the smallholder farmers but generally the poor people and their livelihoods in the country.

The National Conference will be held at Crossroads Hotel in Lilongwe on 30th and 31st July, 2014. During the conference, CISANET hopes to have renowned Malawians who will speak on a number of issues affecting the agriculture sector.

Coincidentally, the year 2014 has been declared the year of the farm family by the United Nations and as the year of agriculture by the African Union as we commemorate ten years of the Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Program (CAADP).

Cisanet's Mvula: Conference
Cisanet’s Mvula: Conference

“As Malawi clocks 50 years of independence and as we look back with pride on the journey and the progress that we have made as a country, we still find Malawi’s agriculture sector to be at the cross roads,” said CISANET National Director Tamani Nkhono-Mvula.

He said over the past 50 years, various Governments in Malawi have made rather limited progress in formulating policies and programmes for commercialising agriculture and reducing poverty but many Malawian farmers have been unable to capture market opportunities because of inadequate production volumes.

“This has lead Malawi to remains a home of poverty and malnutrition within Africa and globally. Malawi ranks among the poorest developing countries in the world and over the years, food insecurity has been one of the major contributing factors to this state of affair though agriculture has been the major economic activity for the majority of the Malawians,” remarked Nkhono-Mvula.

In Malawi, the agriculture, which is generally done by the smallholders and is highly subsistent additionally, farm mechanisation in smallholder agriculture remains rudimentary. A hand hoe remains the primary farm equipment in an era where technology drives production processes. This affects soil fertility management because of the hoe pan effect – low nutrient recycling in the soil profile and low water infiltration resulting in soil erosion from surface runoff.

Added Nkhono-Mvula: “It is worth noting that in the past five years, the country has been producing a surplus, mainly attributed to the Farm Input Subsidy Program, however, the challenges of access to food has remain so rampart forcing Government and other organizations like World Food Program to provide food aid. This, to some extent can be attributed to ineffective choices of policies and practices but also lack of political will to address the underlying causes of this problem.

“We have also observed that there is lack of synchronization of key markets in the agriculture sector and the rural economy. Input supply, services and output markets are disconnected. This lack of market integration creates inefficiencies and slows down the rate of agricultural commercialisation”.

CISANET wants to partner with the other agriculture stakeholders, to take stock of what have been  achieved in the past 50 years in the agriculture sector at the same time look into the future and propose pathways that Malawi’s agriculture need to take to transform.

Nkhono-Mvula stated that CISANET believes that agriculture will remain the major economic activity for the country for many years to come; as such proper visioning will help the planners of policy and program to be well guided.

CISANET believes that the national conference offers Malawi an opportunity to broadly reflect on how has the regional and continental policy frameworks helped to shape and influence local agricultural policies and how such policy frameworks will help to shape our policies in the coming half a century.

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