WINDHOEK – Malawi’s celebrated agriculture input subsidy programme has transformed the country from a recipient of food aid into a net exporter of maize. To sustain this high level of agricultural productivity, the country is aligning its policy with an Africa-wide programme for agriculture.
The Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) was adopted by African leaders in 2003 as a home-grown initiative to save the continent the embarrassment of carrying a begging bowl for food aid from developed economies.
CAADP’s goal is to eliminate hunger and reduce poverty through agricultural development. The initiative is based on four pillars, namely, land and water management; market access; food supply and hunger; and, agricultural research.
To realise CAADP’s objectives, participating African governments agree to increase public investment in agriculture to a minimum of 10 percent of their national budgets with the aim of raising agricultural productivity by at least six percent annually. (Six percent is the average annual growth the World Bank says is essential for a country to record meaningful development.)
So far, only Malawi and Zimbabwe have met and beaten the 10 percent budget allocation.
Through CAADP, increased investment in agriculture is expected to provide a fertile ground for growing incomes and creating wealth for farmers as countries seek cut poverty by half by 2015 as per targets set in the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
The compact serves as a trans-boundary implementation policy for the CAADP framework in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) region, according to COMESA’s country CAADP facilitator Dr. Nalishebo Meebelo.
In her presentation at the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) High-Level Dialogue in Windhoek, Namibia, Meebelo said CAADP will ensure collective responsibility of key stakeholders through broad participation and consultation.
In an interview on the sidelines of the FANRPAN dialogue in Namibia, Edson Musopole, board chairperson for Malawi’s Civil Society Agriculture Network (CisaNet), said under the CAADP Compact, Malawi is focusing on several priorities including food security and risk management; commercial agriculture and marketing; and, sustainable land and agricultural management.
He said on food security and risk management, Malawi is trying, through CAADP, to sustain achievements in food security created by interventions such as input subsidy while in the area of managing risk, the country is seeking adaptation measures in the wake of climate change in the world.
“Recurrent droughts such as the one we had last year in Machinga, Thyolo, Mulanje, Chikhwawa and Nsanje districts calls for adaptation measures in crop production. For example, we are encouraging farmers in drought-prone areas to plant early-maturing varieties or indeed to diversify their crops from maize to others, for instance,” said Musopole, pointing out that these are some of the issues being tackled through CAADP in Malawi.
He also mentioned irrigation farming as another initiative geared to boost production. Currently, Mutharika is championing the Greenbelt Initiative, which seeks to encourage irrigation both at small and large scale levels among farmers across Malawi.
Musopole said through CAADP, a number of donors are expected to pour in their resources into the initiative.
In its 2010/11 National Budget, Malawi has allocated about $210 million to the agriculture and food security sector, representing 11 percent of the budget.
“Following the introduction of the agriculture input subsidy programme in this country, as envisioned and directed by His Excellency the State President [Dr. Bingu wa Mutharika], the country has been turned from a perpetual recipient of food aid and humanitarian assistance to a food sufficient nation.
“In fact, it is on account of the continued input subsidy program that despite the dry spells in some parts of the country in the 2009/10 growing season, the country has still managed to achieve a grain surplus of over 800 000 metric tonnes. The subsidy program has undoubtedly proven to be a success story and arguments for its continuation are therefore, justified,” said Finance Minister Ken Kandodo.
Is CAADP enough to improve Malawi’s food security?
Musopole says no one initiative is enough. He said CAADP will go a long way to improve the situation because it is a multi-stakeholder initiative but added that the country should move step by step.
“For example, we need to build capacity as we go on,” he said.
Musopole also agreed with suggestions that agriculture is twice more effective than any other sector to boost economic growth. He said agriculture achieves this feat because it is one sector that puts together natural resources, labour, land and capital to create wealth.
He said agriculture can only fail to achieve its goals if its inputs—natural resources, labour, land and capital—are not supported. He said laziness or poor health among people can contribute to the failure while lack of capital and natural disasters such as drought and flooding can also derail agriculture as a growth sector.
But Musopole said all is not lost as CAADP is designed to mobilise all the factors of production and put them at the disposal of farmers to increase productivity.
He could not disclose the amount of money pledged for Malawi’s CAADP Compact, saying the Agricultural Sector Wide Approach (ASWAP) is currently being worked out to come up with the budget.
Through ASWAP, Malawi is expecting to get more resources from donors to complement government’s resources to improve productivity in the farming sector predominantly led by smallholder farmers.