The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has said Malawi needs to start ‘thinking outside the box’ in order to overcome the challenges the country is currently facing.
The agency, which acknowledged that climate change, population growth, food insecurity and other forces are keeping poverty firmly embedded in many parts of the world, including Malawi, said that should not be an excuse for not coming up with new innovative ways to deal with the challenges, especially in the agricultural sector which is Malawi’s economic backbone.
Senior Agriculture Specialist for USAID, Robert Navin, even speculated that the current food insecurity that has put over six million lives at risk of hunger by the peak of the next lean period season, is self-induced and could have been easily avoided.
“I think the spirit of sitting idle and waiting for some people to come and help clean our mess or solve our problems is the main factor that has led the country into this situation. Malawi’s agriculture and food systems must become more resilient to face the climate change shocks which we know will continue to hit Malawi,” Navin said.
Navin added that new solutions and new ways of doing business in order to break the cycle of food insecurity in the country are needed. He said the El Nino- induced drought that hit the country during the last agricultural season revealed how vulnerable Malawian farmers are to climatic variation.
He was speaking at Bunda Campus of the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar) where the institution was launching its Innovation Scholars Programme (ISP), in conjunction with the Michigan State University.
The programme is an innovative 12-month faculty and academic leadership development initiative aimed at equipping LUANAR faculty and academic leaders and administrative personnel with the capacity to innovate through enhancement of the knowledge, skills, required to advance the University towards their institutional strategic goals.
Controller of Agriculture Responsible for Institutions Grey Nyandule-Phiri has hailed the United States government, through its agencies for helping in the establishment of the initiative, adding the share of government’s funded agricultural research is important for the university’s focus and expected technological innovations.
“Increasing demand for food can only be met by more intensified production which is dependent on research and innovation, as well as on reduction of losses and waste along the food chain which requires, research and management,” Nyandule-Phiri said.
According to the University’s Deputy Vice Chancellor, Professor Emmanuel Kaunda, the ISP will also serve as a catalyst to advance the overarching objective of LUANAR’s Innovation Hub to support food system innovation that supports food security, and develop the current and next generation of entrepreneurial scientists in the country and the entire region.