South Africa-based world farming expert, Dr. Theo de Jager, has challenged the Malawi Government to incentivise the agriculture sector in order to attract youth involvement in food production and value chain initiatives.
Jager, who is also the incumbent president of the World Farmer Organisation (WFO), made the remarks in his keynote speech at the 23rd annual general meeting (AGM) and launch of the National Smallholder Farmers' Association of Malawi (NASFAM) Strategic Development Plan in Lilongwe on Monday.
The AGM was held under the theme: Building a Sustainable Agribusiness that Delivers Value and Creates Impact. The Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, Kondwani Nankhumwa, presided over the meeting, which drew farmer participants from across the country.
He said it is quite sad that the agriculture sector has failed to lure the participation of young people although it remains the backbone of so many economies.
"In the minds of young people, agriculture isn't a viable business. This is because they see farmers struggle to put food on the table. They say agriculture isn't sexy enough for young people. But I want to tell you that if agriculture can start producing profits, young people will start flocking to the sector," said Jager.
The renowned farming expert further said it is more mindboggling to note that majority of the hunger-stricken households across the globe are farmers whose primary occupation is agricultural production.
"When agriculture isn't seen by governments and farmers as a business, then you are on the losing side. We must encourage each other to be profitable farmers," he narrated.
Jager has since commended NASFAM for developing a 'sound Strategic Development Plan', which is expected to guide the operations of the association for the next five years.
He challenged management of the association to be innovative and make their products competitive so that they breakthrough in value chain initiatives.
The NASFAM chief executive officer, Dr. Betty Chinyamunyamu, said the association has made tremendous strides in improving the social and economic livelihoods of its members across the country.
Chinyamunyamu said most of its member farmers are now economically empowered to acquire valuable assets such as houses, motor vehicles, motorbikes, among others.
"However, we have also faced some challenges over the past years. Some of the challenges are that we have been producing below potential. We have had limited quality management systems; we continue to depend on donor support and above all, we have limited access to investment capital," she said.
In his remarks, Nankhumwa said government appreciates the role NASFM plays in improving the social and economic empowerment of resource-constrained farmers in the country.
The minister said he was more pleased to note that the NASFAM Strategic Development Plan has been aligned to Malawi's National Agriculture Investment Plan (NAIP) policy.
He said this will help government and the association to closely work together in implementing the policy thereby achieving quick results.
"NASFAM has proven to the world that it is a model producer organisation. Today, if you are not a NASFAM member, then you are not a genuine farmer. I have even fallen in love with your mission and vision, which hinge on improving the economic livelihoods of our farmers and I wish to assure you of government support to your programmes," said Nankhumwa.