Malawi has small farms yet its performance in the agricultural sector is exceptional.

The late Malawian president, Mbingu Mutharika will be remembered for being one of the presidents whose core agenda was agriculture. While many countries were facing the ravages of hunger, Malawi had sufficient food reserves and to that effect he got many awards that included the UN special MDG award for success; towards eliminating hunger by enhancing food security ahead of the 2015 MDG deadline.

Bishop Onyando from Kenya and Amon Chinyophiro from Malawi.

Bishop Onyando from Kenya and Amon Chinyophiro from Malawi.

Mutharika completely overhauled Malawi’s agricultural sector and his country became an envy of many African countries that still continue to face unending food shortages.

Malawi has since then made headway in the sector and despite its small farms, the small-holder farmers are not relegated to the back seat as they are policy makers in their own right.

Averagely, the farmers in this country have an acre of land on which they practice subsistence farming. The hand hoe is the main tool of farming yet this sector employs approximately 80% of the population and accounts for more than 85% of agricultural production. The main crop grown is maize while others include: tobacco, tea, rice, cassava, pulses, sweet potatoes among others.

Amon Chinyophiro, the chairman of the National Small-holders Farmers Association of Malawi (NASFAM), during the Growing the Harvest Conference in Kenya, noted that the voice of the small-holder farmer is key in decision making processes in Malawi.

That despite facing various challenges, the farmer coalitions have enabled them to be heard as they are regularly consulted on various issues. NASFAM is the largest independent small-holder organisation with a membership of 108,000 as of June 2012.

“The small-scale farmers were looking for an identity which they found in NASFAM. The leaders are elected democratically which increases the confidence levels of the farmers. This has necessitated the tremendous growth in numbers. Our main principle is farming business.We have 14 Association Management centres. Karonga, Nkhotakota, Balaka, Mulanje and



Ntchisi centres which cater for the ground nuts farmers. Rumphi, Mzimba, Namwera, Zomba and Kasungu cater for farmers involved in mixed farming, while Mchinji is known for its cotton production. North and South Lilongwe cater for the rice fields while Ntcheu centre caters for the spices and herbs farmers,” states Amon.

It currently operates in 20 of the 28 districts with the 8 being non-agricultural communities. He notes that during the Annual General Meetings, the members are able to voice their policy views and concerns which are responded to by invited policy makers in the sector. Gender matters are usually discussed too during such meetings where gender-specific issues are dealt with by the relevant policy makers.

“The organization values contact and dialogue as opposed to confrontational approaches. We dialogue with the various policy makers rather than being confrontational. We have engaged severally with policy makers which has enabled our organization to be recognized in both the public and the private sectors as a constructive partner. Our views in many occasions are sought for on various policy debates through farmer and staff representation” adds Amon.

He states that policy makers respect constructive criticism and that it takes wisdom to know how to pass the message across.

“NASFAM is regarded as the “Voice of small-holder farmers” in Malawi. Through the Policy and Advocacy Unit, research in vital issues is done which enables evidence-based policy engagement. It also helps in linking farmers to policy makers through targeted strategic stakeholder meetings,” says Amon.

Charles Abugre with Profesor Molobi -South Africa engaging.

Charles Abugre with Profesor Molobi -South Africa engaging.

Farmers are also required to meet from time to time in order to be briefed on the policies being implemented which enable them to monitor the outcomes and give feedback to the Policy Unit. Periodic reviews are then done to see how policies are benefitting farmers after which appropriate feedback is given to policy makers.

One of the greatest successes of the organization is that for a long time now, it has been part of the budget making and analysis process through dialogue with the parliamentary committee on Agriculture.

“We have knocked severally on the doors of the government reminding them that in the budget, 10% or more should be allocated to agriculture as per the Maputo declaration. We have been able to participate and informed budget analysis in Malawi. When we are satisfied with the budget-making process, we knock on their doors again to thank them. Many people don’t do that. But we have learnt that silence when things are fine is not the best thing. We know that they are encouraged to do even more when we thank them,” states Amon.

They have also been able to lobby for an input subsidy programme as well as for the removal of soya export ban.

“In the last 2 years, Malawi had banned exportation of soya which was largely to protect the farmers. But we gathered that the ban may prevent us from getting access to better markets and we lobbied for the lifting of the ban which the government heeded. We were able to also lobby for the removal of the 7% withholding tax on tobacco which saw tobacco farmers get their revenue intact. Tax was also removed on agricultural machinery and this was a plus for us. Being able to also participate in public boards and committees is a big feat for us,” states Amon.

Emmanuel Olatunji - Nigeria -

Emmanuel Olatunji - Nigeria -

Faced with the challenges of high illiteracy levels that hinder farmers full participation in policy issues, the organization decided to start adult literacy programmes in a bid to improve the literacy levels as well as farmers’ participation and this has paid off. The involvement of farmers in the grass roots gained recognition and attracted the attention of policy makers.

“Value addition for our produce is also another success that we are proud of doing to date. We have chilli sauce from our top quality chilli.  The grading of our produce before packaging in itself constitutes value addition as well as the packaging itself. The Malawi bureau of standards has also come in handy as it ensures that the weighing scales are checked from time to time and this keeps at bay the unscrupulous people,” states Amon.

He notes that they have confidence in their government it is always ready to listen to them.

The organisation oversees the processes of their farmers from planting to processing of their produce and this has made it one of the household names in Malawi.

He says that despite having challenges like limited access to credit, high prices of agricultural inputs, and limited access to quality inputs -seeds and fertilizers -, insufficient access to technology and equipment, they are still making tremendous gains. They process their own ground-nuts and rice.

“You cannot visit 5 or 6 supermarkets and fail to see our products. The government recently partnered with us on beans for subsidy programme,” states Amon.

Kevin Kaloki- Kenya - Nathaniel - Nigeria

Kevin Kaloki- Kenya - Nathaniel - Nigeria

The OAIC’s General Secretary notes that the tax exemptions that the Malawi government is giving to some of the farmers for the purchase of machinery is a right step towards the right direction as the developed nations have smart subsidies too for their people to boost production in agriculture.

He notes that there is a need for a collective voice for the people in the small businesses sector to ensure just like NASFAM, their voices are heard.

Malawi has demonstrated that small-holder farmers can have a voice by building coalitions of many farmers with effective organisational structures. Africa should learn from its example and gain insights on organised groups and how they can drive the agriculture agenda and be part of the policy making process.

Fiona imbali, OAIC Communications.


No Comment

You can post first response comment.

Leave A Comment

Please enter your name. Please enter an valid email address. Please enter a message.

Warning: file_get_contents(): php_network_getaddresses: getaddrinfo failed: Name or service not known in /home/grociao/public_html/wp-content/themes/alterna/footer.php on line 22

Warning: file_get_contents( failed to open stream: php_network_getaddresses: getaddrinfo failed: Name or service not known in /home/grociao/public_html/wp-content/themes/alterna/footer.php on line 22