On Tuesday, 17 September the Civil Society Agriculture Network (CISANET) had a highly interactive dinner meeting with the new Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture at BICC in Lilongwe. The meeting aimed at introducing the Network to the committee and establish a working relationship with the members. Over 60 people, representing different actors in the agriculture sector, attended the meeting. These included leaders of the committee and their members, senior officials from a cross section of international and local Civil Society Organisations as well as other key stakeholders in the agriculture sector such as representatives from UN agencies, the private sector, and the media.
Opening the event, Farm Radio Trust Executive Director, who represented the CISANET Board, George Vilili, appreciated the cordial relationship that the Network has always enjoyed with the previous committees of agriculture. He further expressed optimism for an excellent working relationship with the new Committee. “We want to collaborate with you for a vibrant agriculture sector in Malawi,” he said.
National Smallholder Farmers’ Association of Malawi (NASFAM) Head of Policy and Communications who is also CISANET programs sub-committee Chairperson Beatrice Makwenda, made a presentation on key issues in the agriculture sector and provided a snapshot of the 2019 budget analysis with emphasis on the need for balanced intra-budget allocations for the agriculture sector.
Complimenting her address, NASFAM Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Betty Chinyamunyamu observed that Malawi’s economy relies on agriculture; therefore, agriculture growth means economic growth. She also appealed for agricultural diversification and profitable markets. “We should not focus on one crop, instead we must support our farmers to grow a variety of crops and ensure that they are able to sell those crops through formal markets,” she said.
African Institute for Corporate Citizenship (AICC) CEO, who is also leader of CISANET Access to Markets thematic group, Dr Felix Lombe echoed Dr. Chinyamunyamu and advocated for functional agricultural markets. “Our farmers need to be empowered to produce sufficient quantities; and there must be an enabling environment to promote agricultural trade,” said Dr Lombe.
Responding to the issues raised, Vice Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, Hon. Ulemu Chilapondwa, acknowledged concerns related to the performance of the agriculture sector in Malawi and pledged that his committee would hold hands with CISANET to the best that they can to address the issues. “I would like to assure you that our Committee will be available to work with you and we must engage regularly,” said Hon. Chilapondwa.
Agricultural Transformation Initiative (ATI) Country Director Dr. Candida Nakhumwa applauded CSOs efforts to dialogue with the new Committee. She observed the need for joint efforts to transform Malawi’s agriculture sector in the wake of declining demand for the country’s chief cash crop, tobacco. “We should not wait until the last leaf is demanded from Malawi; we should work together towards supporting farmers to diversify,” said Dr. Nakhumwa.