The Irish Government has given National Smallholder Farmers’ Association of Malawi (NASFAM) a €300,000 (slightly over MK252, 000, 000) to strengthen the capacity of the association’s commercial wing of NASCOMEX for food safety and quality assurance.
The Irish Ambassador to Malawi, Gerry Cunningham, broke the news during NASFAM’s 23rd annual general meeting and launch of the association’s fourth Strategic Development Plan in Lilongwe on Monday.
The annual general meeting and launch of the association’s strategic development blueprint coincided with the launch of the state-of-the-art laboratory, which NASFAM is constructing with support from the Irish Embassy to enhance food safety testing capacity and strengthen quality assurance in the food processing.
The Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, Kondwani Nankhumwa, graced the occasion alongside other senior government officials such as the Principal Secretary (PS) Grey Nyandule-Phiri, former PS and renowned agricultural expert Dr. Grace Malindi, and World Farmer Organisation president Dr. Theo de Jager, among others.
Cunningham said it is the conviction of the Irish Government that organisations like NASFAM are instrumental in mobilizing smallholder farmers, including women, to share knowledge on good agriculture practices and transfer climate smart technologies.
“More recently, Ireland has developed a new International Development Policy, ‘A Better World’, which focuses on reaching the furthest behind first. One of the pillars of the policy is ‘a sustainably food systems approach’ to our work in the agriculture sector which resonates very well with Ireland’s journey from famine to a major food exporter.
“In this policy therefore with regards to food systems, we would like to refresh our approach to hunger and under-nutrition within a sustainable food systems approach, deepen our focus on agricultural markets and investment, including links to Irish private sector and support inclusive economic growth, especially for women and young people,” he said.
The ambassador said it is in this regard that their partnerships with farmer organizations like NASFAM, which focuses on smallholder farmers who are inevitably very vulnerable to diverse shocks like alluded to earlier, is vital.
He observed that organizations like NASFAM are also central in organizing farmers to participate in structured markets that are much needed by our smallholder farmers. In that way, we can ensure that farmers earn more incomes from their work as they become assured of reliable markets for their crop produce.
At this point, Cunningham assured the participants that once construction of the laboratory is completed sometime this year, it will increase NASFAM’s product footprint on local and international markets besides developing and testing new food products.
He expressed optimism that this will also increase consumer confidence in NASFAM products since improved food quality and safety system has been put in place.
“This has the potential to in turn increase product sales, which we hope can be reciprocated to increased incomes for smallholder farmers as a steady and sustained structured market will have been provided to them by NASFAM. We hope this can enable NASFAM to deliver fair farm gate prices to smallholder farmers probably above the minimum farm gate prices the ministry sets out every year,” stressed Cunningham.
The NASFAM chief executive officer, Dr. Betty Chinyamunyamu, thanked the Irish Government for remaining a traditional donor for the association since its inception over two decades ago.
Chinyamunyamu said the association is now undertaking the commercialization drive as one of the pillars in the Strategic Development Plan designed to enable the association move out of donor dependence.
“We are very grateful to the Irish Government for remaining on our side since the birth of the association. We assure you that we will put these resources to the intended purpose,” she said.
In his remarks, Nankhumwa said government appreciates the support the Irish Government provides to Malawi towards improving the social and economic standing of the rural poor.
The minister also assured the ambassador of government support to NASFAM to ensure more rural farmers are reached with modern extension services, which are critical for mitigating the effects of climate change – the major concern among smallholder farmers in Malawi.
Hundreds of rural-based smallholder farmers, who were drawn from all the 28 districts of Malawi, attended the meeting in Lilongwe.