National Smallholder Association of Malawi (NASFAM) has challenged the government to allocate more resources towards agricultural commercialization programmes if the country is to fast-track realization of sustainable economic growth and development.
NASFAM chief executive officer, Dr. Betty Chinyamunyamu, observed that directing more resources to food security programmes while paying limited attention to the agricultural commercialization initiatives has been one of the challenges retarding the economic growth in Malawi.
Chinyamunyamu made the remarks in Lilongwe on Wednesday when she made a presentation on the review of the 2020/21 budget for the agricultural sector before the joint Parliamentary Committees on Agriculture and Natural Resources.
Chinyamunyamu, who was accompanied by senior NASFAM officials and and the Action Aid Malawi Country Director Assan Golowa, said it is sad that the government continues to invest more resources in food security programmes while giving little attention to sector that has potential to produce tangible returns at the end of a season.
NASFAM and Action Aid Malawi are jointly implementing a project that aims at strengthening social accountability and oversight in health and agriculture with funding from the Partnership for Social Accountability Alliance (PSA).
Chinyamunyamu said while the two institutions appreciate the need to achieve food security as a critical component for achieving sustenance of human life and right to food, this should not be a reason to create imbalance between food security and agricultural commercialization through the disproportionate allocation of the resources.
"[Our concern] is that agriculture has now become a source of food only; and, not as a source of economic growth. And that means it will take Malawi many years to realize our economic aspirations," she narrated.
However, Chinyamunyamu applauded the government for beating the 2020/21 Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS) III target of cost estimate for all interventions under the Agriculture, Water Development and Climate Change Management.
Government has allocated K354 billion to the Agriculture, Water Development and Climate Change Management sector instead of the K214.7 billion estimated in the MGDS III.
"[It is] encouraging to note that Government has for the very first time surpassed the MGDS III target, which is a huge step towards advancing the country's development agenda and embracing the MGDS III's theme of building a resilient nation," said Chinyamunyamu.
Chairperson for the Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources, Werani Chilenga, described the presentation as an eye-opener, stressing that the Committee will recommend to the government that it should be engaging institutions when formulating the national budget to tap from the various experience and knowledge from the civil society.
"This is the resource we cannot manage to do without as a country. So, we will request you to submit your recommendations on what this committee should do so that, going forward, we should be moving on the same page," said Chilenga.