The Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development has admitted that it has so far not handled well the fall armyworm outbreak in the country.
Controller of agriculture extension and technical services Albert Changaya said this in Lilongwe last week during a research dissemination conference organised by Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar).
Changaya, who also chairs the national task force against the fall armyworm outbreak, said his ministry failed to engage Luanar at the outset as the institution’s experts were reportedly abroad when the ministry sought their help.
“But I admit it; we somehow goofed as a ministry by not digging deeper to get extra help from various research institutions. I hope all is not lost; we can still salvage something out of the crisis together,” he said.
The admission also comes in the wake of reports that the ministry has vacancies for at least 1 500 extension officers in its extension planning areas (EPAs) nationwide.
Changaya was, however, quick to suggest the challenge will soon be minimised as government is currently training about 250 extension workers.
In his earlier presentation, Changaya lobbied for enhanced collaboration in the face of slow adoption and up-scaling of technology in the country.
However, Luanar vice-chancellor Professor George Kanyama Phiri said his institution, being one of the universities with the highest concentration of specialists in agriculture in the entire Southern African Development Community (Sadc) region, is always eager to deploy “skills to the benefit of mankind”.
In his remarks, Royal Norwegian Embassy deputy head of mission Bjarne Garden said he expected the ministry to be more proactive in such matters that hinge on food security. n