Malawi Agriculture Policy Advancement and Transformation Agenda (MwAPATA) Institute, an independent agricultural policy think tank formed in 2019, has officially been launched at a grand event that took place at Bingu International Convention Centre (BICC) in Lilongwe on Thursday.
Speaking during the function, which was presided over by Minister of Agriculture Lobin Lowe, MwAPATA Board chairperson and advisor Richard Mkandawire described the launch as a milestone, saying the institute will help to support home grown policy generated in the country.
He said MwAPATA Institute fits perfectly well in the scheme of operations especially now when the country joined the rest of the continent in reaffirming its commitment to the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) under the 2014 Malabo Declaration Pact.
“The first commitment of the Malabo Declaration calls for application of principles of evidence-based planning, policy efficiency, dialogue, review and accountability, use of partnerships and alliances including farmers, agribusiness and civil society.
“The Institute is very critical because it will help to add value as well as build careers of young people,” he said.
He added that the Institute is engaging the Malawi Government, the private sector and civil society stakeholders in applied policy analysis, policy outreach, capacity building and policy coordination.
Rural poverty, malnutrition, inequality and social exclusion remain major challenges in Malawi, said Mkandawire, and that it is widely understood that sustained agricultural productivity growth will be necessary to address these challenges.
Once the challenges are addressed, the agriculture sector is expected to transform the economy and raise living standards because of extensive forward and backward linkages between agriculture and the rest of Malawi’s economy.
Mkandawire disclosed that the Institute, which was formed by National Planning Commission in conjunction with Michigan University, has a plan to attain the level of agricultural growth that can transform the country’s economy.
In his speech, Minister Lowe commended MwAPATA in its endeavour to create worth, reaffirming that this is a centre for excellence and independent think tank which his Ministry will utilize its findings.
He added that MwAPATA brings together a coalition of the most important public and private sector, which is expected to relieve the Government, which has all along depended on its work on research findings from foreign institutions.
“This why we are encouraging MwAPATA because I am looking it as planted tree and that will one day bear good fruits.”
Agricultural Transformation Initiative country director, Candid Nankhumwa said for a long time, Malawi agricultural industry has been depending mostly on tobacco for its export earnings and as its demand has been declining globally, there is need for more research to find alternatives for farmers and this is where MwAPATA comes in.
In his Budget Statement made last month in Parliament, Minister of Finance, Felix Mlusu announced that the agriculture sector has been allocated K354.8 billion which is 19.9% — representing 5.0% of GDP.
This provision, he said, will cater for wages and salaries for the sector, operations for agriculture departments; maize purchase; the affordable input program and development projects within the sector.
On the Affordable Inputs Program (AIP), Mlusu announced that all the 4.2 million farm families will be provided with cheap farm inputs.
“This is not far from being a universal subsidy program assuming an average family size of four people, which gives approximately 16.8 million people that will be covered under this program out of the 17.6 million people in Malawi.
“In this regard, Madam Speaker, there is no sampling of farm families to benefit from this program as every smallholder farmer is covered.”
He added that each farming household will purchase two 50 kg bags of fertilizer at a price of K4,495 per bag and that the AIP will use an electronic system as opposed to paper coupons.
“This reform will ensure transparency and efficiency as National Identity cards will be used when purchasing the fertilizer and all other farm inputs,” Mlusu had said.