Malawi Forum for Agricultural Advisory Services Sets a Direction for Pluralistic Extension System

The Malawi Forum for Agricultural Advisory Services held its annual farming and extension conference from 19th- 22nd of July 2022 in Lilongwe, Malawi .This conference brought over 300 participants across different sectors within and outside Malawi. It was held  under the theme “‘Repositioning Delivery of Agricultural Advisory Services to better Contribute to Agriculture Development in Malawi within the context of Agenda 2030.” 

The following  Sub-themes formed the in depth discussion; i)Extension and advisory services for Agriculture development in Malawi; ii)Youth and women empowerment in agricultural commercialization; iii)Climate smart action (CSA) -Harnessing the role of extension in climate change mitigation management and recovery; iv)Partnership, networking, and resource mobilization for effective extension service delivery for the development of resilient rural communities.

The Guest of honor, Dr Masankho Bulilani, Director of Agriculture Services in his welcome remarks stated that Agriculture is the lowest hanging fruit to see the country (Malawi) move forward and hence needs a business unusual approach. “Malawi cannot develop a vibrant system without incorporating extension.”

He emphasized that the sub-themes of the conference are key to ensuring a vibrant extension system hence the need to incorporate government officers in the programming of extension systems. “Everyone needs to be on board for Malawi to increase the productivity of its lands and water bodies amidst climate change. If the youth population is well harnessed, it can bring out a great impact on agricultural transformation.” He said.

Dr. Stanley Khaila, Chief Executive Officer, Shire Valley Transformation Project-“An inclusive agricultural development agenda” gave the key note address and outlined the challenges with small-scale agriculture as; Land parcels being fragmented, Insecurity of land tenures, Low production, Dominance of small-scale subsistence rain-fed agriculture using a hand hoe, Low irrigation levels which is exploited against the potential estimated at 407,8621 as some of the key challenges associated with small scale agriculture.

Ms. Lilian Saka, the Executive director for CISANET, In her remarks, outlined the need for favorable environment as a key to implementing policies and adaption to an enabling environment for agricultural transformation. Ms. Lilian stated that there was Need to advocate for:  Improved access to markets, Effective seed system, Reformation for Agricultural Innovation Platforms, Food and nutrition Bill, Operationalization of seed act, Ensuring national resilience strategy, Climate-smart agriculture, Review of national agriculture policy and Crops Bill.

Dr. Silim Nahdy in his opening remarks noted that Extension conferences such us the MaFAAS Farming and Extension Conference are key to bringing different stakeholders in the Agriculture sector to learn, debate and find solutions to different extension challenges. “MaFAAS is part of a huge network and one of the active members of AFAAS which share knowledge that is key for learning and agricultural transformation” he said

He said the theme and subtheme present the key challenges across the globe while some present solutions to these challenges. Additionally, he emphasized the need for climate-smart Agricultural solutions to tackle the challenges of climate change which is a global challenge.

“Africa has the youngest population which can either be harnessed or left to explode. When harnessed the youthful population can be used to be productive and contribute to agricultural transformation. If left unharnessed the youths eventually become angry and violent.”

Additionally, he emphasized on the aspect of Digitalization which according to Dr. Silim, needs to go beyond the implementers and the end-users who are the small holder farmers and thus the conference was timely to address these issues. In conclusion, Dr. Silim extended an official invite to the Ministry of Agriculture in Malawi to the 6th Africa Wide Agricultural Extension Week 2023, a biannual continental event for AFAAS which will be held in Abuja-Nigeria and hoped that the 2025 7th Africa Wide Agricultural Extension Week will be held in Malawi.

About MaFAAS

The Malawi Forum for Agricultural Advisory Services (MaFAAS) is a platform for strengthening agricultural extension and advisory services through information sharing and action to achieve professionalization, standardization and quality assurance in Malawi.  MaFAAS is an affiliate of the African Forum for Agricultural Advisory Services (AFAAS), an umbrella body for agricultural extension and advisory services in Africa.

MaFAAS in its mandate as an umbrella body conducts annual farming and extension conferences with the aim of bringing together all extension service players and farmers to share experiences on challenges and success in implementation of activities. Since its inception in 2012 MaFAAS has conducted several farming and extension conferences and has advocated for better policies to guide advisory services to better reach the last mile farmers.