Chikwawa — The Civil Society Agriculture Network (CISANET) has expressed concern over the lower number of staff under the Agriculture Extension District Office in Chikwawa district saying this impacts heavily on the output of farmers' performance. This was disclosed on Thursday during the District Executive Committee (DEC) meeting that took place at the District's Education Manager's Office conference hall when CISANET officials were introducing a new programme to be implemented in six districts including Chikwawa.
"We are implementing a programme called 'Strengthening Pluralist and Demand Driven Agriculture extension through development and promotion of District Agriculture Service Charter.
"The project is to be implemented in six districts that include Nkhata-Bay, Ntcheu, Chikwawa, Mulanje among others but due to funding constraints, Mchinji and Mangochi districts have for the time being withdrawn," said Tamiwe Kayuni, Programmes Officer for CISANET.
According to Kayuni, their baseline study conducted in the district has shown that there are a few staff working under Agriculture Extension District Office (AEDO) which can easily be of negative impact to most farmers as staff and farmers' ratio does not match.
"Our baseline study which we conducted revealed that Chikwawa case, Section 124, manned 45 whilst 75 were vacant and farm families were over 107,021 giving a ratio of 1 worker against 2,378 farm farmers which normally becomes tough and hectic to operate," she said.
The revelations attracted a lot of comments from participants mainly those from the Agriculture Office in the district who said the results of the baseline study clearly show that their ministry has a big role to play.
"This is a challenge to our district as a whole and there should be a big role to be played by our ministry for example by providing proper services to our staff that most of the times are deployed to work in the remotest areas.
"Our colleagues in the ministry of health as well as education have had good accommodation, hardship allowances even some incentives such as medical schemes which our ministry should consider giving to our staff.
"Such incentives will help someone is in very a remote area to continue living there. This is so because we have found out that most of these extension staff run away from the rural areas because they cannot access such services and decide to work for nongovernmental organisations to have better incentives," added a Mr Lupenga from Chikwawa Agriculture office.
The meeting called for concerted efforts from government through the Ministry of Agriculture as well as district offices to train grassroots individuals who can live, work and remain in their areas so that farmers access good help as and when they need it.
The project is for two years and has been funded by Tilitonse.