The Irish Ambassador to Malawi, Gery Cunningham, says Malawi needs to triple investment in climate smart agriculture if the country is to achieve a meaningful and sustainable economic growth.
Cunningham:Malawi should consider adopting sustainable agri-food systems
Cunningham said since climate crisis and population growth are placing additional strains on soil fertility and food production systems in Malawi, and the region broadly, government needs to take innovative approaches towards agricultural production.
The ambassador made the remarks at the national symposium on agro-ecology in Lilongwe on Friday.
The Catholic-based charity organisation - Trocaire - organised the symposium with financial assistance from the Irish Government.
Cunningham, who is also the incumbent chairperson of the Donor Committee for Agriculture and Food Security, emphasised the need for Malawi to consider adopting sustainable agri-food systems and provide the required levels of nutrition and support equitable access to resources in a way that does not negatively impact on people's health and environment.
"Malawi is one of the most agriculture-dependent countries in the world with smallholder farmers comprising some 80 percent of the population. Malawi is also known for taking the lead on the global stage on a number of fronts; hence, let us see if we can make sustainable food production," he said.
He said in adjusting their efforts towards more sustainable food systems, the donor community recognises agro-ecology as an approach that will deliver nutritious, safe and affordable food while protecting ecosystem services and building climate resilience.
"The agro-ecology approach, which combines scientific disciplines, agricultural practice and socio-political movement, is gaining increasing recognition globally for its potential to ensure our food systems are sustainable, resilient and nutritionally diverse.
"Let me acknowledge that some of the key practices of agro-ecology such as crop rotation, manure application, agroforestry systems, mulching, use of cover crops, use of botanical means to control pests such as fall armyworms are already being promoted by our various partners here, including the National Smallholder Farmers Association of Malawi (NASFAM) and through the Agriculture Sector Wide Approach (ASWAp)," he said.
In her remarks, Trocaire country director Jeannettee Wijnants said in light of rising hunger and malnutrition, land degradation, deforestation, rapid population growth, the climate crisis and highest rates of biodiversity loss, there is an urgent need to reframe agricultural and food policies to ensure they are adequate to tackling poverty and hunger to increase small scale farmers' resilience to climate change and promote biodiversity.
Wijnants said therefore that as part of its work, Trocaire has partnered with a number of local civil society organisations in supporting rural households living in poverty to become nutrition secure and have better economic, social and environmental future through maintaining and enhancing the natural resource base on which they depend.
"And support for agro-ecology is highly compatible with progressing the transformative and sustainable ambition of Agenda 2030 and, at least, nine of the Sustainable Development Goals. It can also contribute to the objectives of the UN Decade of Family Farming as well as the Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth," she said.
The Principal Secretary for Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, Grey Nyandule Phiri, commended Trocaire for employing innovative approaches to transform rural livelihoods.
Phiri said government remains committed to working with both local and international organisations to promote modern farming technologies, including agro-ecology.