Malawi can only come out of its current bleak economic situation if small scale agricultural commercialization is given priority and do away with the fertilizer subsidy programme which has done little to arrest rising household poverty, a renowned economist has observed.
Professor Ben Kaluwa was speaking in Lilongwe during the official presentation of anchor farms mapping and analysis report by the Presidential Initiative on Poverty and Hunger Reduction (PIPaHR). Kaluwa is serving as PIPaHR board chairperson.
Kaluwa, who is also economics lecture at Chancellor College, a constituent college of university of Malawi, said by investing in small scale commercialization farming, rural farmers would focus have the opportunity to be transformed through the cash they would be realizing from their crops.
Currently, PIPaHR is promoting legume seed programme where cash crops such as soybeans, pigeon peas, groundnuts and beans have been given priority.
“It is high time we scaled up small scale agriculture farming so that it’s commercially oriented. This can be done through identification idle farms and utilize them for rural based commercialization.
“Once small scale farmers able to make money from farming then they can easily transform their lives rather than waiting for government intervention and hand outs year in year out,” explained Kaluwa.
On the subsidy programme where Malawi government is spending over MK60 billion on targeted farm inputs, Kaluwa was pessimistic saying maize production has had adverse effects on inflation.
“Statistics indicate that a local Malawian household spend 60 percent of budget on maize, what this means is that any problems on maize production affects the inflation adversely, that is why there is need to invest more on other cash crops than maize alone, it is simply not sustainable,” added Prof. Kaluwa.
Meanwhile, according to the study PIPaHR commissioned earlier this year covering central and northern regions, a total of 42 estates were sampled where it was found out that out of 12 000 hectares only 2 000 hectares was being used at the time of visit.
This, according to the report is a big setback considering the fact that the country’s backbone is agriculture.
The report, which largely focused on livestock farming, recommended among other things that Malawi government should facilitate loan capital acquisition by estates from agricultural banks outside the country where interest rates are very reasonable.
The other recommendation was for calls to promote contract farming where farmers would produce based on market requirements.
Malawi leader Dr. Joyce Banda established PIPaHR soon after she took over office in 2012.
The initiative which operates in the Office of the President and Cabinet is implementing the President’s agenda of arresting poverty by any means necessary through programmes such as “a cow a family”, “legume seed distribution” and “two crops per year through irrigation.”Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :