Malawi Investment and Trade Centre (Mitc), a one-stop investment platform, fears that the potential benefits of investment in agriculture and food systems may be outweighed by adverse social and environmental impacts.
The aim was to promote responsible investment in agriculture that contributes to sustainable development and eradication of hunger and poverty.
Mitc chief executive officer Clement Kumbemba said it is important to note that potential benefits of investment in agriculture and food systems may also be outweighed by adverse social and environmental impacts.
He said, for example, some large-scale investments may threaten local livelihoods and marginalise smallholders or lead to environmental degradation and water scarcity, thereby reversing development pathways.
“Meaningful collaboration among government, civil society, the private sector and farmers is, therefore, key to creating a stable and conducive environment to foster sustainable agriculture investments.
“Key to responsible agricultural investment is the sufficient guidance to ensure a coherent screening process for potential investors,” he said.
In a separate interview, Tamani Nkhono-Mvula, agriculture expert and former executive director of Civil Society Agriculture Network, commended Mitc and Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) for the initiative saying investors will be made aware of Malawi’s regulation in the agriculture sector.
“This is a good initiative but I would love if other stakeholders such as the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development and Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism are also brought in to take a role.
“Screening of investors is good because that is how we can know if the investors are investing along the local policies. We need investors who are partners with locals not those who will come here and exploit local investors,” he said.
Against this backdrop, the Inter-Agency Working Group (Iawg), consisting of the World Bank, among other organisations, embarked on a research programme on principles guiding new investments in agriculture in a number of African countries, including Malawi.
Iawg also consists of FAO, International Fund for Agriculture Development (Ifad) and United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad). n