Malawi Government has not provided enough incentives for agrarian transformation in the country, hampering prospects for growing the agribusiness sector, the Civil Society Agriculture Network (Cisanet) has said.
Cisanet executive director Tamani Nkhono-Mvula, in an e-mail response to a questionnaire, noted that there is a lot that needs to be done to increase production and turn farming into agribusiness as opposed to producing for household consumption.
Among other things, he argues that the design of the Greenbelt Initiative was a concept that could have initiated a major agrarian transformation of the country.
“The future of Malawian agriculture is not in smallholder farming. If we want to produce for exports and have that sustained, then the current smallholder farming should be out of the equation.
“We can have smallholder farming for rural household food security, but if we want to produce the quantities and quality for export then we should think of large-scale production or small-scale, but intensive farming,” said Nkhono-Mvula.
Smallholder farmers in the country mainly produce for consumption largely because most of them are poor and resource constrained and poverty makes the farmers risk reluctant and, as such, only concentrate on producing for food.
“Poverty also makes these farmers produce little due to the fact that they do not have resources to buy inputs such as fertiliser, improved seed and to access improved extension services.
“Lack of assets also makes it hard for the farmers to access credits which could have helped in providing for resources to be used in farming processes. Lack of reliable markets as well as market infrastructure such as access roads to lucrative markets in urban centres is also a problem,” said Nkhono-Mvula.
He noted that since the closure of most Admarc markets in the rural areas, a majority of the farmers do not have a reliable market and rely on vendors who also buy their produce at very low prices thereby maintaining the vicious circle of poverty.
Farmers Union of Malawi (FUM) president Felix Jumbe corroborated Nkhono-Mvula, arguing that the system has over the years killed all agribusiness and promising farmers.
He said the lack of access to credit is an issue for farmers wanting to venture into agribusiness.
“Having free fertiliser and seed is more attractive and such farmers have been joining the coupon queues under Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp). The other reason is that the extension system seems to favour peasant farming system as opposed to commercial farming,” said Jumbe.
To reverse the trend, he stated that FUM is promoting farming cooperatives whose aim is to ensure that villages are converted to production economic units.