Statement by Dr Jeffrey Luhanga, Controller of Agricultural extension and Technical Services, Malawi on the occasion of the 34th session of Governing Council of IFAD
My Fellow Governors,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to thank the IFAD President for organizing this session of the 34th Council of Governors. Let me also join the Chairperson in welcoming all of you to this important forum in general and my presentation in particular. I say thank you very much for according the Malawi delegation a cordial hospitality.
Agriculture is the mainstay of the Malawi's economy and accounts for over 36% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 90% of export earnings. The agricultural sector is divided into two main sub-sectors of smallholders and estates. About 75 % of our total agricultural output is generated by the smallholder sub-sector. These farmers mostly live in rural areas and is composed of the women, the elderly and the youth, thus the role of youth in promoting agriculture in Malawi, and indeed sub-saharan Africa is enormous.
It is only through mass participation in the economic activities like agriculture that would bring about meaningful growth in our economies. In this regard, Malawi is putting in place a number of initiatives in order to generate growth from agriculture that would ensure that the lives of people especially in the rural areas are uplifted.
The Government of Malawi continues to implement policies and measures that increase efficiency in the agriculture sector. Since 2005, the Government of Malawi has been implementing the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (FISP) with the aim of increasing agricultural productivity and to improve food security at both household and national levels. The Programme avails improved seeds, fertilizers and pesticides to the resource poor farmers at a subsidized price with increased agricultural extension advisory services. The 2010/2011 agricultural year marks the sixth year of implementation of the Programme. Since its inception, Malawi has been registering food surpluses both at household and national levels. Even this year, the 1st crop estimate on maize has registered an expected harvest of 3.961 million metric tones against a total national maize requirement of 2.5 million metric tones.
I wish to inform the meeting that government effort to invest in food security programmes such as the farm inputs programme in 2005/2006 was against background of food shortages which the country was experiencing in the past. We are now a proud nation to have attained food security in Africa at a period when the world is experiencing soaring food prices. In fact we have now become a food exporting nation. We owe it to the hard working spirit of the smallholder farmers to achieve this feat.
Now that the country has achieved food security, the Government of Malawi is implementing several initiatives that are aimed at turning agriculture for a majority of farmers into a business.
In order to prepare our smallholder farmers in profitable selection of enterprises, producing quality products, value addition, and striking marketing and trade deals, the Government of Malawi with assistance from Food and Agriculture Organisation successfully piloted "Eight (8) Farmer Business Schools" in the country. These provide platform for business giants to interact with these smallholder farmer groups to go into contractual arrangements. This concept is about to roll throughout Malawi.
Since the youth are mostly financially handicapped, there are several initiatives aimed at empowering the youth so that they should stand on their own. There are a number of Projects in Malawi that are linking farmers to microfinance institutions. After getting the initial credit, most of these farmers are able to start agricultural businesses and stand on their own. The Malawi Government introduced a credit of US$19 Million that is assisting the young access financial resources. The government is also piloting a programme of proving loans to youth graduating from agricultural colleges to set up their own businesses instead of looking for jobs.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Our agricultural productivity cannot increase unless we modernize our agricultural production systems. While the Government is doing all it can to improve agricultural productivity, farmers are urged to adopt the innovations and technologies that are being developed through our research systems. In Malawi there are several programmes on the local media where smallholder farmers are encouraged to adapt to the changing environment by using modern technologies. It has been proven that young farmers readily adopt new technologies thus the need to empower our youths more.
Agriculture in Malawi is mainly rain-fed. Climate change is causing drought in some parts in some parts of the country with intensity never experienced before. In order to address this, the Government of Malawi is implementing the "Greenbelt Initiative", which aims at intensifying irrigation farming in different localities along Lakes and other perennial rivers. The Initiative will ensure that we get good crop harvest under irrigation and the possibility of getting 2 or 3 harvests in a year. The Green Belt Programme will cover one million hectares to complement rain-fed agriculture to continue making Malawi a food surplus country, which will result in increased raw material for domestic processing industries and food exports. The Greenbelt Initiative is also expected to reduce migration of the rural youth to urban areas since they are expected to be employed along the agricultural value chain and the development of rural growth centers with all town facilities like Banking, Communication, Clinics, Education and other infrastructure facilities available.
In line with the Government's view that irrigation is one of the means available to significantly expand agricultural production in the face of climate change. IFAD is co-financing with World Bank the Irrigation, Rural Livelihoods and Agricultural Development Project (IRLADP).The seven-year IRLAD project supports irrigation development and rehabilitation of existing irrigation schemes. It emphasizes operation, management and eventual ownership of irrigation schemes by local farmers, who are grouped in water users' associations. Investments in the ongoing Rural Livelihoods Support Programme also strengthen the decentralization process by building the capacity of local people and institutions, and promote sustainable natural resource management. Inputs for assets is a key aspect of this component in order to improve household food production capacity. Both operations are implemented through independent management units with support from Non Governmental Organisations working directly with groups, organizations and institutions at field level.
The exportation of primary commodities which do not fetch much and are not competitive on the international market is an area we would like to address. The low value primary commodities of agriculture are often vulnerable to external shocks and often times counteract our motives. Engaging the youth in agricultural value addition activities can greatly help households attain more farm income.
We would like to commend IFAD for funding the Rural Livelihood Economic Enhancement Programme. This project aims at improving the welfare of the poor including the youth through value chain development. The focus is on value addition and agribusiness development. This process has already registered positive results.
IFAD also intends to implement the Sustainable Agriculture Production Programme in Malawi next year. The objective of the programme is to improve crop yields in smallholder agriculture through intensified extension. We note with satisfaction that the preparatory process of the progress involved all stakeholders in the agriculture sector in Malawi. In addition the programme is also aligned to the Agriculture Sector Wide Approach Programme in Malawi.
Chairperson, in conclusion I want to inform the meeting that in Malawi we have experienced the pangs of hunger. Our President, Ngwazi Professor Bingu wa Mutharika decided to end hunger in Malawi by increasing investment in Agriculture. Today we can report to the meeting that we have surplus food. We urge everyone in this meeting that it is possible to end hunger during our time and to be assured of feeding future generations by investing in young rural people today.
I thank you for your attention.
19 February 2011