NASFAM urges Govt to diversify away from maize

National Smallholder Farmers Association of Malawi (NASFAM) has asked members of Parliament (MPs) to consider reviewing intra-sectoral allocation of resources in the Ministry of Agriculture, observing that Affordable Input Programme (AIP) is overcrowding allocations towards other areas.

NASFAM Head of Policy and Communications Beatrice Makwenda emphasized that there is a serious need for agricultural diversification if the country is to grow its economy.

Makwenda–AIP is overcrowding research, extension, agriculture markets and trade

“AIP is overcrowding allocations towards other areas such as research, extension, agriculture markets and trade. Low absorption on projects funds needs to be checked while implementation needs to be improved,” she said.

Makwenda made the remarks on Thursday when she presented analysis review of the 2021/2022 budget analysis review for the agriculture sector to members of the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture.

The association, in partnership with ActionAid International Malawi, is implementing a social accountability project, which focuses on both the agriculture sector as well as the health sector in looking at public involvement in implementing the designed policies of the MW2063.

Among others, NASFAM is recommending the promotion of local value addition of maize and discourage importation of maize and maize products, deliberate efforts to support production of alternative/high value export crops and the mainstreaming of agro-ecology in sector interventions.

Speaking afterwards, Makwenda said they are worried that maize seems to be given utmost priority in the 2021 as evidenced by the lion’s share it has received in budget while very limited focus is put in other areas.

“It is for this that NASFAM is advocating for equitable allocations so that there is a balance towards agriculture diversification. For all us to transform the economy towards the 2063 vision there is a need for a serious investment in agriculture, which they are envisioning that its investment should be around 25 percent, but, at the same time, the budget is only reaching 19 percent,” she said.

Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture Sameer Suleman concurred with the association, saying it is regrettable that the government put more of its emphasis on the subsidized farm input programme instead of utilizing the budget to diversify the sector.

Suleman said it would have been better for the country to invest in more diversification programmes, which would benefit the country economically in the end.

“In the 2021/2022 national budget, the government has put almost 80 percent of its allocation to the agriculture sector towards the AIP which the committee says is a setback towards finding alternative crops,” he said.

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