Malawi Forum for Agricultural backs calls to have Farmers Day

The Malawi Forum for Agricultural Advisory Services (MaFAAS), organizers of the on-going extension week, has thrown its weight behind proposals for government to officially commission Farmers Day in the country.

Deputy Minister of Agriculture Aggrey Massi: Asked about Farmers Day

Farmers who are taking part in the Extension Week in Lilongwe asked the government through deputy Minister of Agriculture and Food Security Aggrey Massi to consider commissioning the day as one way of recognizing the contribution that farmers make towards the socio-economic development of the country.

Spokesperson for the extension week organizing committee Maurice Mantchombe  said having the day in place would enable farmers present their issues to relevant authorities in a more organized and dignified manner.

“The day would help them celebrate their plight as members of one family and it would also accord an opportunity to government to start considering farmers as partners in development and not just ordinary farmers,” Mantchombe said.

Commenting on the on-going extension week, Mantchombe said the number of farmers who have turned up to participate in this year’s activities has been the highest in the history of the extension week.

“Often times we have organized such activities without farmers. Previously there used to be more ordinary staff than farmers but this time it is the opposite,” he said.

In a related development, following on one of its core objectives of lobbying for more funding towards agricultural extension and advisory services in the country, MaFAAS on Tuesday afternoon presented a statement to the chairperson of agriculture committee of parliament.

In their statement, the grouping notes with concern that the specific allocation of funds within the agriculture Vote 190 is to the disadvantage of one of the most crucial segments of the agriculture sector: agricultural extension and advisory services.

“Out of the overall 108 Billion Malawi Kwacha allocated to the agriculture sector, extension services have an allocation of 2.9 Billion Malawi Kwacha representing a mere 2.6 percent of the agriculture budget.

“Considering that 70 percent of this funding allocation is for salaries, the amount of funds left for agricultural extension operations will be 0.87 Billion Malawi Kwacha representing 0.8 percent of the overall agriculture budget. Clearly, these funds are not adequate,” MaFAAS said in their statement.

It was further noted that with the grossly insufficient financial allocation, very low agricultural modernization should be expected since extension workers will not be able to disseminate modern agricultural technologies and practices through demonstrations, field days among others.

“Agricultural commercialization will be jeopardized because extension workers will not be able to organize farmers into clubs, associations and cooperatives; there will be poor response to challenges affecting the agriculture sector such as dissemination of information on the control of pests and diseases, agricultural marketing, gender disparities, climate change and others,” says the statement.

The agricultural extension and advisory service practitioners have therefore made a request to members of parliament to consider tripling the amount that has been allocated for operations in agricultural extension in the 2017/18 national budget.

The statement has been co-signed by MaFAAS board of trustees Daisy Kabambe and executive committee chairperson Charles Msangano.

MaFAAS is an umbrella body for practitioners of agricultural extension and advisory services in Malawi. Its membership consists of farmers, NGOs, agro-dealers, agro-processors, academicians, extension workers, researchers, agriculture specialists, donors, agriculture students and others at national, district and local levels across Malawi.

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