World Farmers Organisation (WFO), a grouping of farmers’ associations worldwide, has called on governments to develop deliberate policies to take farmers out of poverty because they are a critical constituency for socio-economic development.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Farmers Union of Malawi (FUM) 12th Annual Congress in Lilongwe on Tuesday, WFO president Evelyn Nguleka said every country needs farmers regardless of whether their economies do not depend on agriculture.
She said: “If there are people who make countries move, then farmers are number one. I have been to countries that depend on gemstones and oil, but I have never been served stones as food, I was given real food produced by farmers.
“What saddens me though is that there are about 800 000 people worldwide who go to bed without a meal and the majority of these are farmers.”
Nguleka, who is also president of Zambia National Farmers Union, said countries such as Malawi and Zambia need to develop proper marketing and storage systems for perishable agricultural produce if farmers are to get just rewards for their sweat.
“Imagine during rainy season, we have plenty of mangoes and tomatoes which go bad because of lack of storage facilities. If we had storage materials, we could keep or process the fruits to be consumed during lean periods.
“If we are not assisted then any policy developed to improve farming will not work,” she said.
FUM president Alfred Kapichira Banda urged the Malawi government to re-look at the country’s livestock policies, saying livestock rearing is usually taken as a by way business in the country.
“Why is it that livestock development is not given enough resources? Livestock business is big in other countries, but here it is not prioritised,” he said.
Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development George Chaponda assured the farmers that government is looking into all the challenges they face to make their lives easier.
“I am glad to report that the agriculture policy that was being formulated will soon be approved by Cabinet. We have also reviewed the previous agriculture sector wide approach and will be developing a new one after approval of the national agriculture policy,” he said.
The theme for this year’s annual congress and the national farmers policy conference is Farming for Markets and Development: Partnerships for Increased Farmer Productivity, Market Access and Incomes.
Agriculture remains the mainstay of Malawi’s economy as it accounts for about 30 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and provides employment to 80 percent of the country’s population.