Antananarivo — SMALL scale farmers in Madagascar have appealed to government and the private sector to help them diversify from rice planting and enhance food production.
The Southern African country is heavily reliant on rice as a staple food but is facing hunger as food production declined owing to poor preparedness to the new farming season.
Among other contributing factors were rise in poverty among the rural communities due to inability by government to support small scale farmers following instability that recently rocked the country.
Several farmers in Mahajanga, who spoke to CAJ News Africa, said they were appealing for government and the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) to consider supporting small scale farmers with farming inputs and new skills development.
"Weather patterns are continuously changing here in the country due to climate changes," said farmer Gervais Rakotonomenjanahary.
"As such, the changes greatly affect the way we used to grow our crops. We therefore appeal to both government and FAO to assist us small scale farmers," Rakotonomenjanahary added.
He blamed low yields on lack of agricultural skills among farmers.
Andoniaina Razafindrasata echoed his sentiments.
"We find purchasing seed, chemicals including farming equipment parts being expensive. But our major concern is lack of modern skills and new technologies that would see increased food production.
"Farming is our only source of livelihood, but sometimes we diversify with tourism, which is very expensive to enter the market owing to lack of financial support," Razafindrasata said.
Another farmer, Rinjala Njakanirina, argued the cost of doing business, coupled with lack of new skills, were hampering agricultural growth.
"We severely lack new farming technologies as such we continue to dwell in old ways of farming hence low agricultural yields. When we have low yields, there is always bound to be food shortage in the country thereby driving prices up," said Njakanirina.
Madagascar grows rice as the country's staple food.
Other cash crops include sisal, cassava, sugarcane, sweet potatoes, potatoes, bananas, corn and oranges.
Some farmers solely depend on fishing to earn a living.