Malawi launches Agribusiness Deal Room

In line with government’s Mega Farms investment concept, Malawi has launched Agribusiness Deal Room, which will provide a platform for players in the country’s agriculture sector to collate their business proposals for presentation at the AGRF Summit, which takes place in Kigali, Rwanda from September 6-9.

Agribusiness Deal Room is a call for bold investment towards Malawi’s agricultural transformation through Mega Farms and present at the launch in Lilongwe as guest of honour was former Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Hailemariam Dessalegn, the current Board chairperson of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and AGRF Partners Group.

Dessalegn–We cannot transform agriculture without creating competitive markets for smallholder farmers

Organized by AGRA, in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and the Malawi Investment and Trade Center, the launch attracted participation stakeholders in the country’s agriculture sector, including government representatives and private players.

Minister Lowe is quoted in a statement as saying despite the unprecedented challenges that Malawi’s agriculture sector is facing — including CoVID-19 pandemic and climate change — there were numerous opportunities for investment in the country.

He thus invited investors of all capacities to the sector, with the promise of adequate support from his ministry, saying the “Ministry is championing several policy reforms all meant to create a conducive environment for the business of agriculture”.

“The Ministry is also implementing the Affordable Inputs Program which will ensure that smallholder farmers access inputs to increase productivity.”

Lowe also presented the preliminary design of the Mega Farms concept, whose investment is now open, saying President Lazarus Chakwera seeks to introduce mega farms across the country to lead the agricultural commercialization plans for making his country food secure.

The Mega Farms are envisioned as large-scale farms run as a collaboration between private investors and the government to produce critical agricultural products, but to also serve as centers of excellence for agronomy and innovation, and providing outreach services to communities around them.

While President Chakwera’s administration is advocating for commercial farmers to embrace the all-seasonal Mega Farms, which is MW2063 Pillar 1 of agriculture productivity and commercialization, Lowe visited Chimpeni Estate in Zomba in his efforts to impress existing commercial farmers on how government can leverage on agricultural assets — land, capital, labour, management and equipment — which form a basis of production.

He said he was “very impressed with what some commercial farmers are doing”, saying “after finishing harvesting tobacco in April, Chimpeni Farm grew sugarbeans seed on a land over 100ha using center pivot irrigation”.

In July, the farm grew another crop to be harvested in October before planting tobacco again this same season — three times cropping in a year.

Lowe described the Chimpeni Estate initiative as the right mentality towards agricultural commercialisation taking cognizance that the irrigated crops will be added value right there in Zomba and that over 1000 jobs are being created at only one farm.

At the launch of the Agribusiness Deal Room, Dessalegn commended President Chakwera’s leadership in the commitment to the country’s agricultural transformation agenda as well as articulation of Malawi’s food system pathways in line with the operationalization of the 10-year strategy of the country’s MW2063.

Through the MW2030 agenda, the Minister of Agriculture was appointed to be the national convener and champion for food systems transformation and Dessalegn reiterated AGRA’s commitment towards supporting food systems transformation interventions.

He also highlighted the multifaceted challenges facing Africa and indeed Malawi that require systematic approaches, hence, the emphasis on food systems approaches with the theme of this year’s AGRF Summit, ‘Bold Actions for Resilient Food Systems.’

“‘There is an opportunity to reflect on the coordinated and bold action by leaders, institutions, investors, coalitions and individuals towards translating our commitments highlighted in our different strategies to action and progress on the ground,” Dessalegn is quoted as saying.

The launched was attended by 158 guests — 65 physical and 93 virtual — who agreed that Malawi is ripe with numerous opportunities that require bold and coordinated action.

The statement quoted an assessment the World Bank made in 2018 that said: “With a population of over 20 million and sitting on 3.6m hectares of arable land and Lake Malawi that stretches across most of the country, Malawi has enormous potential to feed itself and Africa.”

AGRA is a farmer-centered, African-led, partnerships-driven institution that is working to transform smallholder farming from a solitary struggle to survive to a business that thrives.

In collaboration with its partners — including African governments, researchers, development partners, the private sector and civil society— AGRA’s work primarily focuses on smallholder farmers – men and women who typically cultivate staple crops on two hectares or less.

AGRA is now recognized across the continent as a strong voice for African rural development, a prosperous agricultural economy, and for supporting thousands of small African businesses and millions of African families to improve agriculture as a way of ensuring food security and transforming their livelihoods.

On the other hand, AGRF is an annual gathering that convenes top leaders, thinkers and implementers in African agriculture across private, public, development and non-profit partners, and academic and research sectors.

The AGRF seeks explicitly to draw these stakeholders around a common purpose – to unleash the full potential of Africa’s millions of smallholder farmers and their families who earn their livelihoods from small-scale farms and provide about 80% of the food and agricultural products consumed across the continent.

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