The Bankers Association of Malawi (BAM), a grouping of commercial banks, has urged the private sector to venture into irrigation if the country is to benefit more from the agricultural sector.
BAM president Paul Guta said in an interview on Tuesday on the sidelines an agri-business conference in Lilongwe on Tuesday that the country has for a long time depended on rain-fed agriculture and time has come to change focus.
The conference, organised by BAM, attracted about100 business captains, government officials and members of the non-governmental organisations.
Guta, who is Nedbank (Malawi) Limited managing director, said the country has to embrace agriculture fully and start doing things differently.
He said: “For too long we have been relying on rain-fed agriculture and usage of hoes and this cannot take us anywhere. We do not need to grow crops for four more months and for the next eight months we are just idle.
“We need money for 12 months and we must work throughout the year. Kenya and Uganda are growing flowers and are exporting. Why can’t we be doing the same here?”
Key note speaker at the conference Professor Lovemore Mbigi of South Africa called for the setting up of a company specifically for the improvement of agriculture.
“We need to look beyond Admarc and National Food Reserve Agency and start thinking outside the box. As a nation, we must learn to take the challenge head on and government must also take a leading role because agriculture is serious business,” he said.
Mbigi, who is professor of business and government management at Stafford University, said apart from creating a new body to manage issues of agriculture, there is also need to encourage farmers to embrace technology.
“Digital is the way to go. For example, companies such as Uber do not own taxis, but they are the biggest taxi operator through technology.
“Farmers must embrace technology for them to easily access data and even prices of their commodities,” he said.
In an interview, Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Principal Secretary Grey Nyandule-Phiri said government will continue prioritising the agriculture sector.
He said government is also taking irrigation seriously; hence, the creation of the Green Belt Authority which has come up huge irrigation projects in the country.