Malawi’s agricultural sector has been branded inefficient, technologically backward and not in line with the country’s vision of becoming a predominantly exporting nation.
Economics Association of Malawi (Ecama) and Civil Society Agriculture Network (CisaNet) point to lack of adequate extension and research services, failure by Lilongwe to strategically allocate resources in the sector and promote large scale mechanisation and irrigated agriculture as some of the bottlenecks failing the country in its export quest.
In a communiqué issued on Monday following its 2015 Annual Lakeshore Conference held on November 12 and 13 in Mangochi, jointly signed by president Henry Kachaje and executive director Edward Chilima, Ecama called for an urgent consultative meeting to holistically review the sector.
Among others, Ecama reiterated its call for government to exit the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp) and reallocate the funds to targeted commercial production.
“Fisp funds should be diverted from subsistence farming towards subsiding organised medium scale farming. There should be a deliberate intervention by government to change the thinking that agriculture is a social or political service, it is a business,” it urges in part.
Ecama also recommends the removal of all controls and exportr bans on commodities.
With a couple of water bodies in the country, Ecama also tipped government that the bulk of the Ministry of Agriculture’s annual budget should go towards irrigation, irrigation infrastructure development, building of dams and extension services, not travel and allowances.
In an interview on Monday, CisaNet executive director Tamani Nkhono-Mvula stressed that the growth of the country’s agriculture sector is dependent on the growth and development of other sectors such as education, energy and infrastructure.
He said strong strategic thinking and political will, as well as proper linkages between farmers’ organisations and the industry are needed to enhance production and value addition.
“We may require making a hard choice to drastically reduce our investment in the Fisp [Farm Input Subsidy Programme] and invest quite a lot in education. I believe that education will produce the human resources that will easily adopt improved technologies, but at the same time be able to come up with new technologies,” advised Nkhono-Mvula.
He also urged government to invest a lot in research, extension, mechanisation
Agriculture remains the mainstay of Malawi’s economy. According to the Food and Climate Justice (FCJ) campaign, the sector accounts for at least 39 percent of the total gross domestic product (GDP) estimated at about $4.3 billion by the World Bank.n