Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development has been faulted for lacking commitment in implementation of various agriculture programmes which have been described as costly and frustrating agriculture transformation.
For many years, government has been implementing programmes such as Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp), Green Belt Initiative (GBI) and recently unveiled an ambitious irrigation programme in a bid to achieve food security.
However, weather-related shocks—drought and flooding—have in the past two seasons frustrated achievement of desired results as food production dropped.
Speaking at the official opening of Farmers Policy Conference and Farmers Union of Malawi (FUM) 12th Annual Congress in Lilongwe yesterday, Reserve Bank of Malawi Deputy Governor (Economic Services) Naomi Ngwira challenged government on some of the policies, emphasising that 25 percent of the vulnerable people, which represents 3.4 million, could transform to middle class if government combined irrigation and rain-fed agriculture.
She said: “About 70 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. We could take at least 25 percent of that and transform their lives to middle income earners through a combination of rain fed and irrigated agriculture.
“Each cluster of district can choose cropping or animal husbandry and half of the production should come from agriculture that is irrigated in that district and half rain fed which would then feed an activity which is like a processing or manufacturing plant adding value to crops.”
Ngwira, who studied agriculture economics, also said issues of financing and mechanised agriculture are doable and can be easily implemented to advance an agriculture breakthrough in the country through leadership, governance and institutions to.
In his remarks, FUM board chairperson Alfred Kapichira Banda, who described Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development George Chaponda as a “bulldozer”, wondered why government should take 10 years to develop a contract farming strategy.
He said: “Are you sure honourable minister that farmers should be waiting for 10 years for government to just develop a strategy?”
Kapichira Banda further said the Malawi agriculture industry was a mess as farmers are suffering and getting poorer every year and their rights are not protected.
In response, Chaponda said the farmers’ congress was a good opportunity to share and emphasise the government’s vision and strategies for agriculture and how they can contribute to the country’s industrial development.