Malawi’s growing population is expected to place increasing demands on its food production systems, but the country’s smallholder farmers, the country’s food providers, are not prepared to benefit from this increased demand. Why, one wonders, does increased demand not translate into increased revenues for demand providers?
The answer lies in the supply capacity of the small producer. The outlook for a smallholder farmer in Malawi is bleak. As the size of their farms is too small to generate significant income, small farmers cannot put more land under the fund to reach profitable farm scales. Manifestations of climate change threaten to reduce yields and incomes. What only exacerbates the situation is the underutilization of the livestock sector due to low rates of farm diversification, restrictive policy frameworks resulting in inadequate access to markets and livestock services. extension and little or no infrastructure. The result: Smallholder farmers are not adequately equipped to benefit from livestock production and are deprived of the full realization of their income potential.
The Ministry of Agriculture recognizes the growing importance of the sector in contributing to farm diversification, increasing income levels, and food and nutrition security and the potential contributions to the country’s economy. In response, the ministry has made recent adjustments to the livestock development policy by developing the livestock policy from 2021 to 2026 to increase and complement the sector’s marketing efforts.
It is for these reasons that the International Crops Research Institute of Semi-Arid Tropical Zones (ICRISAT) in collaboration with the Civil Society Agricultural Network (CISANET) organized a policy dialogue under the theme “Livestock for Food and Nutrition Security in Malawi: Policy Gaps, Needs and Opportunities. The Policy Dialogue which took place on October 16, 2021 to provide an opportunity for stakeholders to discuss current policy challenges, needs and opportunities in the livestock sector. The webinar was informed by the Crop Livestock Integration and Marketing in Malawi (CLIM²) project that ICRISAT is implementing in collaboration with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the funded Small-Scale Livestock and Livelihoods Program (SSLLP). by the European Union. under the Agricultural Income and Diversification Program (FIDP II). The objective of the project is to improve the diversification and integration of crops and livestock and to contribute to a more efficient use of scarce agricultural resources, for the benefit of women in particular.
Ms. Erika Maganga, Principal Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, underlined the importance of stakeholders working together to address challenges affecting the growth of the sector.
“This meeting came at the right time to discuss the key role of the livestock sector in its contribution to the agricultural sector, in reference to the political paradigm shift. It is therefore vital that all stakeholders participate in the implementation of the revised strategies. We have to face multiple challenges on how we can better invest, ”she said.
Responding to the call of the Principal Secretary, Professor Sikhalazo Dube of ILRI highlighted a series of gaps which had been mainly identified by the project and which need to be addressed through policies and support mechanisms. The project had mainly focused on goats, poultry and dairy products and other challenges faced by small farmers, such as the limited availability of capital, including financing for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), especially for those in which women and young people participated. Lack of skills or expertise in animal husbandry with limited access to extension services, limited knowledge of what is considered a good quality product from the consumer’s point of view, resulting in low income and policies that were not inclusive enough for the rural poor, often making the dairy market inaccessible.
“The project has clearly shown that farm incomes and nutritional benefits can be improved if we invest in inclusive agribusiness models in chicken, goat and dairy value chains,” said Dr Sabine Homann-Kee Tui, ICRISAT social scientist with CLIM². project, while explaining how the project addressed these limitations. “This should strengthen our confidence in small agribusinesses and spur us on to create the right conditions for small agribusiness run by farmers. “
The project illustrated multiple entry points: it supported the government of Malawi in releasing the Kuroiler chicken, a fast-growing dual-use breed that also produces larger eggs. Farmers were also trained in producing their own food and reducing feed costs. By investing in high quality infrastructure in the goat value chain, building vending pens where goats can be sold, renovating slaughterhouses and butchers, farmers can now engage with buyers in a way that benefits both more efficient transactions; farmers also get insight into market demand for meat. Through investments in dairy micro-processing, the project illustrated ways to reduce wastage of dairy products and add value to milk locally. Improved knowledge of animal welfare and health has also helped reduce losses (mortality and product waste) and improve the quality of eggs, poultry, goats and dairy products. All of this has resulted in an overall increase in agricultural income for the various agribusinesses. The approach of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) seeks to locally initiate agro-industrial capacities for which the project had launched starter kits to support the financial needs of SMEs.
Professor Sikhalazo also spoke passionately about this business, saying: “Once we realized the capital constraint, we developed starter kits to support SMEs. It has become important to recognize that starter kits can be essential for fueling passion and critically important to the agribusiness.
Dr Patrick Chikungwa, director of the Department of Livestock and Animal Health, detailed the government’s efforts to integrate the lessons of the project in accordance with the nine priority areas of the new livestock policy 2021-2026.
“During the development of this new policy, the CLIM2 project consulted us. The contributions of the project team were taken into account in the development of the livestock policy review, ”said Dr Chikungwa. The director went on to clarify how the project identified per capita productivity and consumption as areas that were not well addressed in previous policies and that were essential to achieve agricultural diversification.
“The CLIM2 project highlighted evidence of low stakeholder involvement, low public funding, pressure from livestock diseases, low adoption of technology and poor commercialization. Previous policies increased the numbers but did not seek to increase productivity and per capita consumption. The yield per animal can be improved. We will now try to remedy this, ”he said.
So far, the project has scored important points by informing the new breeding policy and bringing various innovations. However, the sustainability of efforts when a project is phased out has always been a controversial issue to ensure maximum use of resources. The dialogue identified the need for synergies in the efforts of state and non-state actors, academia and other stakeholders to achieve this.
“The lessons from the meeting will shed light on the future of business coaching and capacity building for SMEs. We will strengthen alignment with DAESS and others to better coordinate, ”added Professor Sikhalazo Dube.
The dialogue highlighted other important issues that needed to be addressed at the policy implementation level, such as low employment rates in the sector that need to be increased for better coverage of extension services. , poor road networks which limit farmers’ access to infrastructure and markets, and therefore also need to invest in, and the importance of a strict regulatory framework for quality control for Malawi to truly benefit of the export market.
Responding to this need, Dr Chikungwa further stressed that with the help of CISANET and the CLIM2 project, the government will present the political messages and engage more relevant stakeholders. In addition, the revised livestock policy would be officially disseminated and launched; Dr Chikungwa hinted that the agriculture ministry would commit to follow-up dialogues.
“This is my call to all stakeholders across the country to move forward together in the nine priority areas that cover all challenges, in some way. We will also be reaching out to donors and development partners, as government alone cannot meet all challenges. There is a need to mobilize resources from donors and development organizations, with the new policy setting the pace and direction of the country, ”he said.
To view a guidance note on the livestock sector resulting from the project’s consultations and lessons, click here.
To hear what farmers, researchers and other stakeholders have to say about the CLIM² project and its results in each of the value chains, click below.
Kuroiler chickens for income and nutrition
Diversifying agrifood value chains in southern Malawi
Mr. Thokozani Guta (CISANET), Ms. Tendai Saïdi (CISANET) and Ms. Pamela Kuwali (CISANET). Rohit Pillandi (ICRISAT) contributed to the writing of this article.