Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development has employed 450 Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) school leavers to be trained as field extension workers.
The extension workers are expected to help minimise the huge gap currently being experienced as one extension worker is serving 3 000 farmers instead of 700.
In an interview on the sidelines of an irrigation project launch on Monday in Nkhata Bay, Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Principal Secretary Erica Maganga attributed the shortage in extension workers to, among others, population increase.
However, she called on farmers to utilise lead farmers, radio extension services and extension services being offered by non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
“Indeed at the moment we do not have adequate extension workers in the field. But we are asking farmers to get services from extension workers under NGOs. We will come up with modalities of harmonising the system with these NGOs,” she said.
Civil Society Agriculture Network (CisaNet) executive director Tamani Nkhono-Mvula said government should have employed more than 500 extension workers.
According to Nkhono, the ratio would have been smaller if government included the NGO extension workers.
“The mistake that we make is that in most cases when we are calculating the extension-worker-farmer ratio, we only use government extension staff.
“But on the ground, the ratio would have been smaller if we were including the NGO extension staff. The system has failed to take into consideration the number of NGO extension workers as a total number in the district,” said Nkhono-Mvula.
He also said there is need to understand why most extension workers are quitting.
“These workers are not motivated. They use their own resources to move around, coupled with poor salaries and housing. Government should consider hardship allowances for extension workers in rural areas as is the case with teachers,” said Nkhono-Mvula. n