Chairperson for the National Planning Commission Professor Richard Mkandawire says the commission is encouraged by strides government and other organizations are taking in making sure that Malawi diversify
its agriculture sector.
Mkandawire made the remarks on the sidelines of the first ever two day agriculturaltransformation summit organized by the Agriculture Transformative Initiative(ATI) which was held in Lilongwe.
The ATI in collaboration with the Foundation for the Smoke Free World is preparing for a smoke free future by facilitating diversification throughcreation of globally competitive economies by empowering
smallholder tobacco farmers.
Said Mkandawire: “As a Commission we are happy with efforts being undertaken by the Agriculture Transformation Initiative. This summit has come at the righttime when Malawi is looking at how best to
diversify its farming activities so that it does not only rely on tobacco. What we have seen is that it is possible to diversify tobacco farming alongside other crops. We are a key driver in this transformational agenda and we are notlooking only at crops but even technology as well.”
Mkandawire said with the climate change phenomenon it was imperative for Malawi to make full use of its water resources and encourage farmers to venture into irrigation farming.
“We are also keen to see that technologies are enhanced and that more scientistsare produced from colleges such as LUANAR. Smallholder farming is high risk and the consequences of poor harvests through failed investments or ineffective practices can be devastating.
“Shifting from a known to an unknown system requires careful evaluation of the factors that can influence outcomes, so alternative crops and livelihoods needto be explored by partnering research institutes to
determine the best suited ways of empowering farmers better,” said Mkandawire.
One of the Commissioners at NPC Phillip Madinga concurred with Mkandawire thatthe first ever transformation summit will help expedite diversification so that tobacco farmers are given a fall back
plan in the event that the volumes demanded by buyers reach negligible levels.
“We want to encourage our tobacco farmers to embark on growing other crops suchas soya, groundnuts, and beans even paprika. As NPC we are spearheading theagriculture transformation initiative and our hope is
to see that the farmer get his just rewards at the end of the day,” said Madinga.
Country Director for ATI Candida Nankhumwa said declining demand for tobaccocould have devastating effects on farmers not only in Malawi but in Africa as awhole.
Nankhumwa said Malawi is a country of unique need as the most tobacco dependentcountry in the world, despite being a relatively smaller in the global market.
She said: “Considering these circumstances and other trends in the sector, ATIwants to prepare smallholder tobacco farmers for an era of significantlyreduced demand for tobacco, focusing first populations with the greatest need.
“We will use this opportunity to facilitate the establishment of mores secureincome strategies for farmers and will seek to partner with a diverse set ofstakeholders to ensure the success and sustainability of our strategies.”
President for the Foundation for Smoke Free World Jim Lutzweiler said overreliance on tobacco is counter-productive hence the need for diversification.
“Growing tobacco has never lifted smallholder farmers out of poverty. Rigorous analysis can shape effective evidence based policy creation and resourcedeployment to diversify economies and lessen tobacco dependence. There is needto better prepare the farmer for the future hence our coming in,” he added.
According to a statement the foundation has received a pledge from PhillipMorris International of $80 million annually for 12 years beginning 2018.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :