Mulanje — The National Smallholder Farmers Association of Malawi (NASFAM) over the weekend held an interface meeting with farmers and service providers at Mulanje district council with an aim of giving the farmers an opportunity to interact with the service providers on issues of development.
Farmers representing their associations from Mulanje, Phalombe and Thyolo participated in the meeting in which service providers from the offices of Agriculture, Forestry, Water, Education and others at Mulanje District Council responded to their queries on the spot.
According to National Policy Coordinator for NASFAM, John Chipeta, the meeting was one of the organization's activities aimed at encouraging farmers to take active roles in ensuring that service providers who represent various government institutions at the district level are carrying out their duties in a transparent and accountable manner.
"We as an organization dealing directly with farmers, believe that it is the farmers' responsibility to ask service providers on issues that they do not understand as one way of ensuring constant interaction among them," said Chipeta.
During the meeting, the representatives of the three associations hailed the government officers on issues of rural roads maintenance, provision of water, availability of ARVs in all health facilities in the district and good management of the Farm Input Subsidized Fertilizer programme.
They however, criticized the council on other services such as poor standards in primary school education, lack of other drugs in public health facilities in the district and minimal availability of agricultural extension workers in the district where only 31 extension workers are available to cater for an area that requires 131 of them.
Responding to the concerns, the service providers explained to the farmers some of the challenges that were there in the 2013-2014 fiscal year that led to such failures, promising them to expect changes in the next fiscal year.
The farmers also made suggestions which they feel should be considered by parliament during the next budget sitting, such as ensuring that the Malawi Kwacha is stabilized in order to avoid effects of its depreciation which they said negatively impacts on their farming.