State President Prof. Arthur Peter Mutharika says Malawi needs to start making big plans for the agriculture sector in order to achieve bigger and better development.
He said the country’s development has grown at a slow pace because some of the plans that have been made have made little progress.
The President was speaking at the Bingu wa Mutharika Convention Centre-BICC in Lilongwe on Wednesday, when he launched the National Agriculture Policy-NAP and the National irrigation Policy-NIP.
The National Agriculture Policy is a policy roadmap which will guide operations in the agriculture sector for the next five years.
It builds on other existing frameworks such as the Agriculture Sector Wide Approach (ASWAp) and the National Export Strategy (NES).
Meanwhile, the National Irrigation policy will address spatial and temporal water shortages, deal with customary land issues that affect irrigation and the operation and maintenance of irrigation infrastructure.
According to the President, the growth of Malawi’s economy largely depends on the way decision-makers plan in the agriculture sector, as agriculture remains the backbone of the economy and development.
“The better we plan, the better we get equipped to march to a better Malawi. The amount of our planning, and the dedication in executing our plans will determine how high we go in progress,” he said.
He added that Malawi’s current situation on the socio-economic scene is because of her past planning.
“As a country, we are where we are because we have been thinking small and planning small. And I say, we must think big and plan big. That is how we will grow big as a nation,” he added.
Prof Mutharika expressed concern that after so many years since independence, Malawi has not maximised the potential of the agriculture sector for a number of reasons.
“This sector has been characterised with policies that lacked clarity. Sometimes, there have been conflicting policy positions on key issues,” he disclosed.
“We have been using out-dated agricultural production technologies. We have a sector that has been characterised with underdeveloped irrigation, mechanization and commercialization,” he bemoaned.
He said time has come to address these policy problems, saying the two policies will give direction to the growth of the agriculture sector, I the process driving the economy of the country.
“The National Agriculture Policy will guide us to achieve our collective goal through the eight priorities, among them, sustainable agricultural production and productivity; sustainable irrigation development; mechanisation of agriculture and empowerment of youth, women and vulnerable groups in agriculture.”
He said given the fact that times have changed and that rains are not predictable anymore, government has developed the National Irrigation Policy which will in turn operationalise the National Agriculture Policy, which is the overarching policy for the agriculture sector.
“Malawi has high irrigation potential. This country can irrigate up to about 408,000 hectares. But we have only developed 108,000 hectares for irrigation. We have only developed 26% of our irrigation potential. We needed a comprehensive policy for irrigation. We needed to invest in irrigation,” said President Mutharika.
He further said the combination of the two policies symbolizes a reform in agriculture.