Malawi: government calls for greater private sector intervention in agriculture sector

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The Director of Agricultural Extension Services at the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, Dr Jerome Nkhoma, called on private sector actors in the agricultural sector to consider implementing interventions aimed at achieving sustainable growth.

Speaking at an agricultural field school for extension workers in Zomba on Monday, Nkhoma stressed that the government has developed standards, information and technologies designed to enable actors in the agricultural sector to reach more farmers.

He said that it is therefore necessary for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to fully engage in the implementation of their programs.

“We encourage NGOs to enter into agreements with the Ministry of Agriculture so that we can provide quality services to communities,” Nkhoma said.

He said through the Farmer Field Schools, the government trains extension agents on how to implement different technologies in the agricultural sector.

Currently, the government is training extension workers under the Malawi Resilience and Disaster Risk Management Project (MRDRMP), which was designed to cope with drought and flood emergencies.

MRDRMP technical team member Enock Whayo described the three-year project as the successor to the Malawi Drought Resilience and Recovery Project and the Malawi Flood Emergency Program.

Recently, the Government of Malawi received additional funding in the amount of USD 80,000,000 for the MDRRP and the project was restructured into the Malawi Resilience and Disaster Risk Management Project (MRDRMP) in 2020.

The activities of the MRDRMP are designed to cope with both droughts and floods. The first component of the project aims to “improve food security and sustainable livelihoods” and one of the subcomponents of this component is climate smart irrigation with a total budget of USD 14,000,000.

The objective of this component is to strengthen the resilience of rural farming communities through the rehabilitation and reconstruction of irrigated areas, improvement of agricultural production and rehabilitation of watersheds.

It aims to strategically complete the rehabilitation and construction of certain irrigation schemes for drought-prone areas, in accordance with the National Irrigation Master Plan and Investment Framework (2015) and the National Irrigation Policy ( 2016).

At least seven irrigation schemes covering 690 hectares are targeted for construction and rehabilitation in this project, with 6000 farmers expected to benefit.

These irrigated perimeters are located in the districts of Dedza, Balaka, Machinga, Thyolo, Blantyre and Nsanje.

Irrigation infrastructure will be used as a catalyst to increase commercial agricultural production of high value-added crops, horticultural production, value chains and trade links. One of the ways to improve productivity and market access will be to increase extension and training services.

Farmer Field School is one of the extension approaches to be used to fill the existing knowledge and skills gaps in sustainable land management (SLM), climate smart agriculture (CSA) and forestry practices. among the farming community and district extension staff in the project areas.

Nkhoma said that the training was therefore organized to train extension agents from the project areas to equip them with the knowledge and skills needed to facilitate farmer field schools in the targeted areas.

“Farmer Field School is a group-based adult learning approach that teaches farmers how to experiment and solve problems independently. The approach focuses on learning from experienced farmers typically in the same locality or village. who learn in a hands-on way, especially when the topic is related to their experiences.

“The approach is a ‘school without walls’ to improve the decision-making capacity of farmers and stimulate innovation for agricultural sustainability and can be applied to both crops and livestock,” he said. he explains.

Experts say Farmer Field Schools are crucial for improving farmers’ agro-ecological knowledge and decision-making ability, by improving the adoption of knowledge-intensive technologies and practices, capacity building and empowerment of farmers; promotes the concept of lead farmer which improves farmer-to-farmer extension; improves farmer-led research and further promotes the collective identification, analysis and resolution of problems.

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