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Malawi boosts agricultural potential

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Maize remains the primary traditional source of food security in Malawi. Image credit: Samuel Agyeman Duah

Malawi boosts agricultural potential  

The government of Malawi has introduced several programmes to boost its agricultural potential.

By Leon Louw owner of WhyAfrica and editor of the WhyAfrica magazine

In his state of the nation address last month, Dr. Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera, the President of the Republic of Malawi, reflected on the success of a number of interventions the government of Malawi has introduced to boost the country’s agricultural potential.

The sector has been under pressure in Malawi and has faced several challenges over the last two years. The impact of Cyclone Freddy, that ravaged the country in February 2023, is still felt across Malawi.

Maize remains the primary traditional source of food security. Cyclone Freddy caused significant damage to the crop, particularly in the southern districts of Malawi where approximately 53,000 hectares of maize fields, or 3% of the planting area for maize, were affected.

The Cyclone also damaged irrigation systems in some districts such as Chikwawa, Blantyre, Zomba and Phalombe.

Furthermore, the rise in prices of agricultural inputs worldwide because of the war in Ukraine, and the delayed commencement of the subsidy program due to the sharp rise in fertiliser prices, led to low fertiliser use.

This compromised production of priority crops in the country, including maize, resulted in a 6% reduction in overall national maize production compared to the 2022/23 season. This has prompted the government to announce a number of measures to assist farmers and boost production in the 2024 season.

Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP) (Malawi boosts agricultural potential)

President Chakwera announced in his address that he would redesign the Affordable Inputs Programme to target those farmers able to achieve food security with it.

Consequently, 1.5 million farmers with land holding sizes from 0.25 hectares to two hectares were targeted to benefit from the AIP this growing season, with the expectation that they will produce 1,125,000 Metric Tonnes, 14 thus contributing over 32% to Malawi’s national food grain requirement.

“For this growing season, despite a few challenges encountered during the implementation of AIP, including shortage of foreign exchange, the redemption rate of seeds and fertilisers improved by 10% compared to the previous one.

“Our cooperating partners also contributed towards the programme with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) providing 5.1 million Dollars, the “Japanese Government providing 5,200 Metric Tonnes of urea, and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia providing 100 Metric Tonnes of fertiliser and 10 Metric Tonnes of hybrid maize. In the coming fiscal year, our mission to refine the AIP will continue, aiming to strengthen beneficiary targeting, eradicating redemption malpractices, and enhancing the timeliness of our interventions. This is progress, and we will build on it to keep our recovery going,” said President Chakwera.

Mega Farms initiative (Malawi boosts agricultural potential)

According to President Chakwera, the government’s Mega Farm Initiative has seen significant strides in the past year as the plans to establish large-scale production units for priority crops were implemented. The Mega Farms initiative is a cornerstone of the Malawi government’s commitment to enhancing agricultural production and commercialisation.   

“In collaboration with the Malawi Defence Force and Malawi Prisons, the government administration coordinated the production of 373 Metric Tonnes of maize for restocking of 15 strategic grain reserves.

Similarly, the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR) cultivated 103 hectares of maize on Illovo, while Dwangwa Farm produced 700 Metric Tonnes of maize.

Additionally, two cooperative-based mega-farms were successfully launched at Linga in Nkhata Bay, with 450 hectares dedicated to rice.

The government further established a full-time Mega Farm Support Unit at Kanengo in Lilongwe, which has mobilised 560 farmers managing a combined total of 18,000 hectares for the cultivation of crops like groundnuts and soybeans, under the off-taker agreements with companies like Pyxus Malawi and Paramount Group that have links to international markets.

Improved production depends on mechanisation (Malawi boosts agricultural potential)

In his address President Chakwera emphasised that agriculture productivity, as desired under Pillar One of Malawi 2063, demands the mechanisation of the agriculture sector.

“In this respect, my administration facilitated the establishment of a private sector tractor hiring association with a fleet of more than 134 tractors which can be hired by farmers any time.

“This initiative, along with the distribution of 16 new tractors and other agricultural equipment to cooperatives, has substantially increased crop production on our Mega Farms.

“This is progress, and we will build on it to keep our recovery going.

Intensification of irrigation (Malawi boosts agricultural potential)

In the wake of Cyclone Freddy’s devastation and El Nino weather forecast for the 2023/2024 rain season, the Malawi government has intensified irrigation activities to mitigate the effects of climate change on food security.

As a result, the area under irrigation grew by two percent during the reporting period. The developments in irrigation resulted in production of 342,000 Metric Tonnes of food crops and 515,000 Metric Tonnes of export crops.

“And yet we have only scratched the surface, since although total area developed for irrigation has increased from 146,966 hectares to 148,850 hectares in 2023, it is nowhere near the 407,862 hectares of irrigable land available.

“As such, my administration will continue to develop irrigation projects to build resilience of the agriculture sector and sustain production and productivity, and there are exciting prospects for Malawi ahead,” said President Chakwera.

Under the Shire Valley Transformation Programme, for example, the first 6kms of the main canal has been completed, including the coffer dam.

In the coming year, the focus will be on the construction of secondary pipelines for phase 1 and when completed, these will bring water for irrigation to 22,280 hectares.

Another exciting prospect is the Programme for Rural Irrigation Development (PRIDE), through which government plans to develop 8,765 hectares of new schemes and rehabilitate 1,930 hectares of existing schemes, with a total of 10,000 beneficiary households.

Construction of Mafinga and Marko Irrigation 17 Schemes in Chitipa, and Lingoni Irrigation Scheme in Machinga covering 450 hectares was completed, and the schemes are now being utilised in full.

Meanwhile, construction of Mlooka and Matoponi solar powered Irrigation Schemes in Zomba is at 95% and 90% completion respectively, while construction of Wowo Irrigation Scheme in Phalombe is at 90% completion.

In Karonga, four Irrigation Schemes, namely Wovwe, Hara, Chonanga and Ukanga with a total area of 700 hectares have been rehabilitated and these came in handy for rice and maize production during the dry season.

“This is progress, and we will build on it to keep our recovery going,” said President Chakwera.

WhyAfrica visits Malawi  

WhyAfrica will visit Malawi and a number of agricultural project in the country during our 2024 WhyAfrica Road Trip through South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi and Tanzania.

This will be our third consecutive Road Trip after requests by many of our members, readers, followers, advertisers, partners, and sponsors to make it an annual event following the first two extremely successful WhyAfrica Road Trips.

This year we will attempt to visit 30 projects sites and interview more than 46 stakeholders in less than 40 days, traversing five African countries and covering close to 11,000km.

The project sites that we visit are mostly in the mining, exploration, quarrying, agriculture, forestry, fisheries, energy, infrastructure, ESG, water management, environmental management, tourism, and conservation sectors.

During our trip we interview ministers, business leaders and CEOs, operational managers, procurement managers, government representatives, business associations, NGOs, labour unions, workers, community leaders and local people on the ground.

We compile a large library of video clips and photos in the process, some of which will be used in our Road Trip Review magazine in November and in our Road Trip coffee table book that will be printed early in 2025.

Remember if you become a WhyAfrica member, you’ll be able to follow us daily, in real time, on the WhyAfrica WhatsApp channel.

There are great partnership, sponsorship, and advertising opportunities available so if you are interested contact as soon as possible as space is limited.

WhyAfrica specialises in the sustainable utilisation and responsible extraction of natural resources in Africa

Malawi boosts agricultural potential  

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Malawi boosts agricultural potential  

 

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