The Donor Committee on Agriculture and Food Security (DCAFS) has asked for the intervention of the Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Dr. Allan Chiyembekeza on the weak financial management depriving the Ministry of the much needed funds.
The DCAFS comprises of Development Partners who include the African Development Bank, DFID, European Union, Flanders Government, Germany, Irish Aid, JICA, Norway, USAID, World Bank, FAO and the UN family
EU Ambassador to Malawi Marchel Gerrmann speaking on behalf of the DCAFS at the Agriculture Joint Sector review in Lilongwe recently said that the Development Partners are working hand in hand with the Government.
Civil Society Agriculture Network (CISANET), a policy advocacy organisation on agriculture and food security, shared the concerns raised by donors describing the situation as unfortunate.
Seven donors, DFID, European Union (EU), Flanders, Irish Aid, Norway, World Bank and USAID last year pooled for the first time their resources to support key activities for the sector. A multi-donor Trust Fund of $100 million managed by the World Bank was launched in April last year.
“Unfortunately, after one year of implementation, without counting the donors contribution to the FISP, only 13% of the funds have been disbursed so far due mainly to weak financial management within Government.
“Honourable Minister, I know you share our frustration with this situation. We count on your leadership to address the issues that have delayed the disbursement of funds,” said Gerrmann.
The donors also lined up six other areas of concern. They include the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (FISP), Land Bill, the Seed Act, Structured markets and ADMARC and resources for investments in diversification and productivity.
Gerrmann welcomed the review of FISP but was quick to say “of course we have to await the final outcome of the reforms and we do realise that these take time. As Development Partners in this sector we are hoping for a more efficient, more transparent, less costly program with strong private sector involvement, promoting diversification and farmers upgrading.
On the Land Bill, Gerrmann, urged Government to prioritise the tabling of the new Land Bill to Parliament observing that it will pave the way for improved access to land and secure tenure of property for both smallholder farmers, in particular women, and businesses.
“In turn this will stimulate farmers to invest in agriculture and irrigation leading to improved food security and increased income generation,” he said.
Equally important to achieving food security and substantial agriculture growth is the access to the right quality and variety of seeds, said Gerrmann n the Seed Act.
He decried the current procedures to allow new varieties to be available on the market noting that they too slow and bureaucratic.
“The Government has already taken a first step by committing to harmonise its regulatory framework to SADC protocol and revisions of the Seed Policy and Seed Act are almost finalised.
“It is generally agreed that the Seeds Service Unit needs to be reformed and become more autonomous in order to deliver its service at pace and to the required quality and standards. This will also ensure that seeds are available on the market. We encourage the Government to finalise this exercise as soon as possible,” said Gerrmann.
On the Structured markets and ADMARC, Gerrmann cited the lack of proper market structures in Malawi.
He added that through ADMARC, Malawi has a nationwide network that could potentially assist in strengthening market structures and ensuring good prices for the farmers.
“However, this would only work if ADMARC becomes transparent, effective and efficient in its operations,” he said. “There is also no mechanism in place by ADMARC to ensure that the targeted poor rural and peri-urban households will access the subsidised maize in their outlets. Without a transparent and predictable strategy, the actions of ADMARC have a rather distorting effect on the market instead of a regulating effect.”
“The role of ADMARC in the sector should be reviewed. It should operate in a transparent manner. These concerns are shared widely and Development Partners are ready to support addressing them,” Gerrmann said.
While appreciating the tight fiscal situation Malawi is going through, Gerrmann observed that extension services, research, farmers’ organizations, market support and irrigation again appear under-funded.
In his response to the low utilization (13 percent) of the $100 million, Chiyembekeza expressed worry saying there is a lot that needs to be done.
He did not respond to all issues raised by the donors. But on ADMARC, Chiyembekeza Government has lined up reforms.
Commenting on FISP, Chiyembekeza implementation of the FISP will this year take on board efficiency measures.
“It is envisaged that farmers’ contribution will be increased from the current MK500.00 and that there will be increased participation of the private sector. The allocation to FISP therefore, is net of farmers’ contributions,” he said.
CISANET National Director Tamani Nkhono-Mvula noted that it is unfortunate government is failing to access funds when there are glaring gaps in the National Budget due to withdrawal of budgetary support by donors.
Nkhono-Mvula also welcomed reforms in government programmes such as FISP pointing out that any reforms should be aimed at increased efficiencies.
On donors concerns on ADMARC, Nkhono-Mvula said CISANET feels should be further reformed so that it operates as a commercial entity.
“We would want to see ADMARC being innovative-investing in new systems of marketing and value addition-not just buying and selling raw commodities,” he concluded.
The Agriculture Joint Sector Review purpose is to have a frank and open discussion among stakeholders about progress made, but also about the way forward in light of the challenges that the sector is facing.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :