The Civil Society Agriculture Network (CISANET) has expressed concern with the state of affairs in the agriculture sector saying it is disheartening to note that the problem of hunger is ever increasing.
CISANET board chairperson Willie Kalamula on Wednesday observed that over the past 50 years Malawi has seen a lot of changes taking place in the agriculture sector. He said some have had a direct positive impact while others did not.
“Today our agricultural sectors especially in the subsectors of extension, research, and marketing have not fully recovered from the shock they suffered. Though some of the changes done under the structural adjustments are being reversed like the input subsidies, setting of minimum prices on crops, we feel that much more needs to be done to fully protect our farmers from the harsh realities of the agriculture sector value chains.
“We at CISANET strongly feel that the Malawi agriculture sector needs a clear vision for the next 50 years, a vision upon which all the policies and programs of Government and other sector players will be based. On top of that there will also be a need for us to develop clear road maps and monitoring mechanisms to achieve that vision,” said Kalumula in his opening remarks at the two-day National Conference whose theme is Malawi Agriculture at 50.
He however expressed pleasure that the Ministry of Agriculture has undertaken to develop the National Agriculture Policy.
“At the same time, as part of the implementation of the G8 New Alliance, a lot of changes are taking place in the agricultural policy environment. It is our hope that the Ministry of Agriculture, under your leadership, Sir, will provide all the sector players an opportunity to provide their views so that at the end all these changes will help to take our agriculture sector forward.
“Today we are carrying out a number of changes under the G8 New Alliance but if I may ask, are we doing these change with a clear focus of what we want to be 20 or 30 years from now? Or these changes are taking place just to suit some short term parameters. There is therefore need for us as a country to put in place structures and institutions that will help to bring a lasting transformation of the agriculture sector,” he said.
CISANET has since proposed that the idea that was being pursed of establishing an Agricultural Transformation Authority be further pursued.
“We also would like to propose the establishment of the National Food Security Council that will oversee all issues of food security and the human right to food. The Civil society already provided for the establishment of this institution in the draft Food Security Bill,” he added.
Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Dr Allan Chiyembekeza noted that the National Conference has come at a right time as Malawi celebrates 50 years of Independence.
“I personally feel it is a good time for us to reflect and take stock of what we have achieved in the agriculture sector over the past 50 years,” he said.
Dr Chiyembekeza agreed with the CISANET board chairperson that the current state of the agriculture sector is not something that Malawi should be proud of.
“That is why I have come personally to offer my support for this meeting so that we share ideas to change the way we do things in the sector. Despite the heavy investments that have been done in agriculture development over 50 years, Malawi still remains a country that has good part of its population with missing food entitlements. This is not acceptable,” said Dr. Chiyembekeza.
He told the gathering of about 250 participants that his Ministry is in the process of developing the National Agriculture Policy which will be a coherent policy for the agriculture sector.
“This policy is being developed having recognized the dynamics in the policy environment both at national and international levels that have a significant bearing on the agricultural sector. It was therefore noted that there is need for a policy framework to guide the sector’s operations in the face of the different cross-cutting issues that affect productivity of the agricultural sector,” he said.
Others that spoke at the national conference on Wednesday include Professor Richard Mkandawire. He gave a key note on Rising Africa? Malawi's Quest for Defining a New Agriculture Architecture for Smallholder Farmer Agriculture Transformation".
Professor Zachary Kasomekera presented on The 50 Years of Irrigated Agriculture In Malawi: Challenges and Opportunities while Dr Blessing Chinsinga presented on Democracy and Food Security: The Political Economy of the Right to Food.
Professor Matthews Chikaonda talked about Private Sector led Agriculture: From a Rhetoric to Reality while Dr Thomas Munthali presented on 50 years of Donor Support to agriculture: proposed framework for effective cooperation and Dybon Chibonga of presented on Smallholder Agriculture Development in Malawi: From Subsistence to Commercial.
The National Conference ends Thursday with more presentations from various speakers.
CISANET is using the national conference to reflect on the achievements and challenges of the past 50 years and also make proposals for the future.