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NASFAM recommends AIP restructuring, improvement in farmer : extension worker ratio

National Smallholder Farmers Association of Malawi (NASFAM) has recommended the restructuring of the Affordable Input Programme (AIP) in order to maximize its benefits to individual farmers and the nation at large.

NASFAM Head of Policy and Communications, Rejoice Chikakuda, made the recommendation on Friday during a meeting with the Parliamentary Committees on Agriculture, Budget and Finance, Women and Youth.

The association organized the meeting to enable lawmakers and non-state actors to discuss issues related to resource governance and input to the agriculture budget for the 2023-2024 agricultural year.

Chikakuda observed that AIP has failed to deliver the expected results; hence, the need for the government to restructure.

“One of the issues that we would have wanted to propose is to say: can we, as government, look at the alternatives to AIP. If you know that the programme is not working, I think it’s a mandate to be able to look at it properly and say if this is not working; what is the reason why it is not working, and also what are the alternatives to make sure that works,” she said.

Chikakuda disclosed that a consultation with their farmers revealed that AIP is not an effective programme.

Chikakuda: Our consultation with farmers revealed that AIP is not working to the best interest of the farmers and the nation

“And this is so because there are a lot of issues targeting AIP; issues of corruption, issues of distribution of fertilizer in times when the farming season is already gone. So, after much discussion with them we can look at alternatives to AIP, but also there are some issues that we looked at, issues of organic farming,” she explained.

NASFAM also urged the government to seriously consider improving the ratio between extension workers and farmers.

Currently, close to 1,700 extension workers serve close to 4 million farmers. This means one extension worker is expected to serve between 2, 500 and 3, 000 farmers.

Chikakuda described the ratio as ‘really bad’.

“Government should look at these issues by training more extension workers or to employ more extension workers because we know that there are some who go to school but they are now employed. So, we want the government to employ more of these extension workers so that farmers should be able to be helped,” she said.

In her remarks, Chairperson of the Budget and Finance Committee, Gladys Ganda, concurred with Chikakuda, but emphasized that Malawi needs to provide diverse investments in the agriculture sector.

Chikakuda assured that lawmakers would see how best they can advance the recommendations to the relevant authorities at the Capital Hill.

“We are going to see how best AIP can be restructured. We are going to recommend the Ministry of Finance to restructure AIP so that it should be beneficial to Malawians and the economy of this country,” she said.

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