The Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, Lobin Lowe, has admitted that the viability of the smallholder-led agricultural transformation strategy in Malawi is facing several challenges.
Lowe cited low productivity, dependence on rain-fed production systems with only one growing season, and limited use of irrigation as some of the impediments.
The minister made the sentiments when he opened the policy research seminar on the future of smallholder farming in Malawi.
The seminar was jointly organized by Malawi Agriculture Policy Advancement and Transformation Agenda (MwAPATA) and the National Smallholder Farmers’ Association of Malawi (NASFAM).
The major objective of the seminar was to explore transition pathways and strategies for smallholder farmers.
The minister emphasized that smallholders are diverse and there is a need for different combinations of policy strategies to help tackle the challenges that they face.
“As you are aware, agriculture remains the key sector of Malawi’s economy. It is vital for the livelihoods of most Malawians. Agriculture is important for household and national food, income, and nutrition security. Over the years, we have all noticed that this important sector is being challenged by persistent emerging problems like that of climate change which are impacting on the contributions of the sector towards Malawi’s development agenda. In addition, now, we have this new Covid-19 challenge. It is for this reason, with a clear understanding that we all have to address these challenges and develop resilience,” said Lowe.
The minister acknowledged that smallholder farmers play a significant role in the economy of this country as they tend to spend their incomes on locally produced goods and services, therefore stimulating the rural non-farm economy and creating additional jobs.
He said it is against this background that the government has been advancing agricultural transformation, which is well articulated in the recently launched Malawi 2063, and also elaborated in the National Agriculture Policy (NAP).
“NAP guides all sector players towards increasing production, productivity, and real farm incomes. We now have an opportunity to contribute to new policy as the policy is drawing to an end. My Ministry will be looking forward to receiving and engaging in dialogue on the outcomes from this seminar. Moreover, my ministry realized that there is a need to have a coordinated approach to agricultural development and in conformance to the Malabo Declaration developed the National Agricultural Investment Plan (NAIP),” said Lowe.
Apparently, NAIP prioritizes interventions aiming at enhancing market access, value addition, trade, and access to finance among other priorities.
Lowe therefore said he was pleased that the seminar had drawn together institutions and more so representatives of smallholder farmers who will share ideas on aligning their programmes to these NAIP focus areas.
In her presentation, NASFAM Head of Policy and Communication, Beatrice Makwenda, said lack of or limited access to capital and mechanization, right inputs and extension advisories are other challenges affected agricultural productivity in the country.
Makwenda also lamented the inter and intra season price volatility of the agricultural produce on the markets as another factor negatively affecting smallholder farmers.
She therefore called for the strengthening of institutional governance at all levels, women representation and cultivation of meaningful partnerships aligned to strategic goals.
However, Makwenda emphasized that there is still room for growth of the sector.
Meanwhile, Lowe challenged the participants to discuss and propose solutions to the existing challenges.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :