Experts tout agricultural diversification

By Robert Katuli

Experts at the 10th Eminent Speaker series event, held on Thursday in Lilongwe, searched for answers on why there is little to show on the country’s agricultural diversification drive when a lot of research has shown that this is a catalyst for growing the economy.

Speaking in an interview at the end of the event at Bingu International Convention Centre (BICC), Director General for National Planning Commission (NPC), Dr Thomas Munthali, said focus is what is needed now to act on what is already known about the importance of diversification.

“In Malawi 2063, we’ve got a pillar of how we inclusively create wealth. And that one of the key pillars is agricultural productivity and commercialisation,” said Munthali, relating to agricultural diversification which, in part, involves transforming traditional agriculture into a dynamic and commercial sector.

He said there are initiatives in place to transform the agricultural sector towards diversification, observing the initiatives just need to be scaled up and accelerated.

“But we have big hope because if you look at the mega farms, it is showing that we are moving towards diversification.

“If we can hold hands and continue what is already showing, we can advance a lot,” added Munthali.

Mwapata Institute Executive Director, William Chadza, concurred with Munthali adding that despite other gray areas, there is always big hope of learning about what is working in agricultural sector and what is not, the challenges being faced and their solutions.

“There are a number of reasons why we are in such a situation. One of them being how we prioritise the resources which we have. We are not looking at it from a holistic point, so we need to look at how we spread and allocate those resources,” Chadza said.

On priorities, key speaker at the event, Professor Sosten Chiotha, who is Regional Director at the Leadership for Environment and Development in Southern and Eastern Africa (Lead), said in an interview that other natural resources also need to be considered when talking of agricultural development.

“Agriculture is directly linked to natural resources; therefore, we need to take the two together in our developments. The natural resource base will provide the water, the soil fertility,” said Chiotha.

He emphasized on the need to diversify the country’s economy so that pressure on the agriculture sector is reduced.

Apart from the keynote speech by Professor Chiotha, the event, whose theme was ‘Enhancing agricultural growth and diversification’, also featured a panel discussion, among others.

NPC, alongside Mwapata Institute and Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources, organised the event that brought together key players from government, development partners, the academia and other institutions.


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