Govt investing in sustainable agricultural transformation to attain MW2063

The Minister of Agriculture Lobin Clarke Lowe says the Malawi Government recognises the need for sustainable agricultural transformation for significant growth of the agriculture sector and that this is why it was considered and highlighted in Malawi 2063.

Lowe said this is why the government is making huge investments in agricultural transformation, stressing that this would not only provide the best opportunity for achieving sustainable food systems, but also help push out the country towards sustained economic transformation enhanced food security, poverty reduction and possible integration into the global economy.

Lowe reading his prepared speech at the research dissemination conference at BICC in Lilongwe–Photo by Watipaso Mzungu, Nyasa Times

The minister made the remarks in Lilongwe when he opened the 2022 Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR) Research Dissemination Conference on Wednesday.

He admitted transforming the agriculture sector in Africa and Malawi, in particular, requires strategies that address the key challenges to agricultural development in more holistic approach.

“It also requires innovative programmes to strengthen the links between agriculture and finance and to promote agricultural value chains and markets at national and regional levels. I am excited therefore to see that issues to do with agricultural entrepreneurship diversification will also be discussed at this conference,” he said.

The conference, which was held under the theme ‘Sustainable agricultural transformation for significant growth of the agriculture sector’, attracted broader and multidisciplinary audience for researchers to share their work and gain recognition for their work.

LUANAR organised the conference with support from various partners such as MwAPATA Institute, National Bank of Malawi and the Royal Norwegian Embassy to provide a platform for collaboration and networking with variety of scientists and stakeholders from a wider spectrum.

Lowe said the agriculture sector continues to suffer negative effects of climate change, which has also impacted the amount of yield among farming households.

Tobacco Control CEO Dr. Joseph Chidanti Malunga was among the participants–Photo by Watipaso Mzungu, Nyasa Times

He said Third World countries, particularly Africa, are threatened by the predicted effects of climate change because of their economic dependence on climate for development whose backbone is agriculture.

The minister further warned that the repercussions of climate change will be felt in various ways throughout both natural and human systems in Sub-Saharan Africa.

“Climate change projections for this region point to a warming trend, particularly in the inland subtropics; frequent occurrence of extreme heat events; increasing aridity; and changes in rainfall. Particularly vulnerable to these climatic changes are the rainfed agricultural systems, like our country, on which the livelihoods of a large proportion of the population currently depend.

“As agricultural livelihoods become more precarious, the rate of rural-urban migration may be expected to grow, adding to the already significant urbanization trend in the region. The movement of people into informal settlements may expose them to a variety of risks different but no less serious than those faced in their place of origin, including outbreaks of infectious disease, flash flooding and food price increases,” he said.

Lowe therefore expressed hope that the participants would engage in an open and constructive dialogue on a wide variety of various issues.

“Personally, I have always believed that listening to presentations informs you of what others are doing sometimes more clearly than the paper, and in any event with a slightly different spin and the ability to ask questions, will inspire research ideas of your own. The success of this conference ladies and gentlemen will depend on how you the participants and of course the attendees shall respond to issues and concerns discussed and interpret them.

“My appeal to the chairperson of the organising committee, please do not allow the discussions to end here. I understand, as the Vice Chancellor pointed out, that the Sustainable Food Systems for Rural Agriculture Transformation and Resilience (TRANSFORM) programme includes issues such as Climate smart agriculture, innovations, technologies and best practices for sustainable agriculture; nutrition and public health for sustainable agriculture; agricultural entrepreneurship diversification and; agricultural mechanisation, natural resource management and ICT in sustainable agriculture among others.

“The importance of this conference will be enhanced if this platform will indeed be used to enhance but also expedite implementation of the proposed innovations for the development of the agricultural sector in Malawi and possibly beyond,” he said.

LUANAR Vice Chancellor Professor Emmanuel Kaunda said the institution will continue to play a key role in tackling challenges affecting the agriculture sector.

Kaunda said the institution’s ability to develop collaborative partnerships with international governments, higher education institutions, and business of this standing is testament to their influence and our reputation for excellence across a wide range of agriculture and natural resources disciplines studied at any public university in Malawi.

“The backbone of our success is the remarkable quality of our academics. Our researchers continue to play a key role in tackling the more prominent challenges of our age as you will note from the programme and the book of abstracts Further, our researchers can sustain that disciplinary strength and questing spirit that is at the heart of a great university. The University is at its strongest when we put enthusiastic minds at the centre of our plans. And of course, outstanding individuals require outstanding facilities, and so we continue to build for the future,” he said.

In his remarks, the Norwegian Ambassador to Malawi Steinar Egil Hagen said his government is in the process of shaping a new policy, centered around the small-scale food producers and climate adaption.

Hagen said research cooperation is – and will be – an important part of this collaboration.

“Research and international research cooperation are in fact key priorities of my Government. Research is international in nature and we attach great importance to international research cooperation and research based knowledge, both as political objectives on their own, but also as the basis for policies in various other areas. This is also relevant in Malawi and it is therefore vital that the ongoing research cooperation between the two institutions meeting here today, is relevant and able to contribute to improving the agricultural and food security situation in Malawi.

“Climate change, food security and food systems are crucial and closely linked concepts and key in achieving the sustainable development goals as we all know, and also Malawi’s own vision 2063. I assume that the “Sustainable Food Systems for Malawi Programme” contribute to the national food system action plan for Malawi and that this will be reported on by our partners,” he said.

Norway has cooperated with LUANAR since 1998 through funding of both infrastructure, research collaboration and various related activities.

The current Sustainable Food systems for Malawi programme is the sixth to be signed between Norway and Malawi, with a key partner in all these agreements being the Norwegian University of Life Sciences or NMBU.

Hagen said he was happy to see that the collaboration, which started 24 years ago, is still strong.

“Based on long experience of funding the NMBU LUANAR cooperation I would like to conclude my remarks by challenging you to be relevant, be proactive and take a leading role in transforming the agriculture sector in Malawi, develop a strong outreach programme to ensure that research results are disseminated in a language appropriate to stakeholders. A forward leaning and active research community is needed to assist the Government, donors and civil society in putting in place the right policies and strategies and make sure these are implemented,” he concluded.

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