Farmers call for improved agricultural operating environment

Vanani Zimba

By: Vincent Nhlema

 

The board chairperson for the National Smallholder Farmers’ Association of Malawi (NASFAM) Mr Vanani Zimba, has called on government to address some key challenges affecting their productivity in the country. 

Speaking during the 22nd Annual General Meeting (AGM) for NASFAM,  Zimba said the organization carefully chose the theme for their AGM to be "Innovation- key to agricultural transformation in Malawi,"to stir conversations on how smallholder famers can go beyond doing business as usual in improving crop yields, access to relevant and timely information and,  participation in markets.

“Today, we are asking a lot of questions; how can we change the status quo? Is it possible to reduce the high post-harvest losses? How can we go an extra mile? We believe it is possible to change the current scenario for the better with innovation.

“As farmers, we have embraced the realities of farming business and we believe we can enhance productivity if government can help address issues like high costs of production, which leads to low productivity; difficulties in accessing improved mechanization and other technologies; increased threats from Climate Change, and high occurrence of weather-related shocks; and access to marketing infrastructure and reliable markets.”

Zimba further urged the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development to release minimum prices prior to the season to help farmers make informed decisions in their farming business.

“We are pleased with your attendance Mr. Principal Secretary. Through you, we call on the Ministry of Agriculture Irrigation and Water Development release the 2018/19 season minimum prices early. In fact we should have already known by now what the minimum prices are so that we make informed decisions on what to produce and what quantities. We have adopted market-driven farming and knowing what the prices will be like, is very important for us.”

The Malawi parliament passed a tobacco bill in December, 2018 which mandates the minister for Agriculture (in consultation with relevant sector players) to set and publish minimum prices for tobacco prior to the season to enable tobacco farmers make informed decisions. Farmers are hoping the same will apply to other key crops in the near future.