Malawi, key partner to Norwegian Government – Ambassador

Ambassador Steinar Egil Hagen

By: Vincent Nhlema

His Excellency, Mr Steinar Egil Hagen, the Norwegian Ambassador to Malawi has revealed that Malawi is one of a few countries approved by the Norwegian parliament as key partners for Norwegian support in the coming years. 

The ambassador revealed this when he presided over the 2018 Annual General Meeting for the National Smallholder Farmers’ Association of Malawi (NASFAM) in December, at Capital Hotel, Lilongwe.

Norway is the major donor for NASFAM and the news came as relief for NASFAM and other organisations in Malawi including the Malawi government.

The ambassador said, “Let me take this opportunity to inform you that Malawi has very recently been approved by the Norwegian Parliament as one of the key priority countries for Norwegian support. In a new Norwegian White Paper on partner countries Malawi was one of a handful countries that were recognized as a key partner country. This is certainly good news for me as I recently arrived in the warm heart of Africa.  The three priority sectors of health, education and agriculture/food security will be the focus but it also clearly recognizes the importance of good governance and private sector to complement this.

“Within the next three month, consultants from LTS will assist the Embassy assess our current support in the agricultural sector with a view to identifying priority areas to focus on over the next five years. It goes without saying that the strategy for the agricultural sector will be in line with the National Agriculture Investment Policy (the implementation plan for the Malawi National Agricultural Policy).”

The ambassador also commended NASFAM for leading the way in organising farmers in groups to help improve extension service delivery as well as crop marketing services.

“I strongly believe in the importance of farmers being organized. Farming is essentially a private sector enterprise with the role of the government to provide support to essential research, a conducive regulatory framework and to some extent also extension. This should be complemented by private sector as well as civil society organizations like NASFAM. Strong farmers’ organizations have in many countries been the backbone of economic development. 

“As some of you might know, this is my second positing to Malawi. I was here first as Charge d’ Affairs for six months, from January to June 1999, I opened the Embassy before the first Ambassador reported for duties. I remember very well that negotiation for the support to NASFAM started during the six months I was here and that support has continued to this day.

“During this period NASFAM has grown to represent more than 160 000 paid up member and its presence is seen in almost all districts in Malawi. Although the focus is on paid up members, services, such as crop marketing, demonstrations and field days and commodity marketing are also provided to non-member smallholder farmers averaging around 300,000. But with maybe between 3 and 4 million rural households the potential for even more growth is quite substantial. I agree with the slogan of NASFAM that “the future belongs to the organized” and coming from a country where the farmers are extremely well organized I clearly recognize this as extremely important also in Malawi.”