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Farmers union project in Malawi hailed for enhanced district coordination of activities
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Farmers union project in Malawi hailed for enhanced district coordination of activities

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Media consultant Paida Kadzakumanja recently visited two agricultural projects implemented by the Farmers Union of Malawi and funded by the Government of Flanders. After meeting with the beneficiaries, she wrote three articles about the projects.

The District Stakeholder Panels project (2013-2016) is a three-year project which aims to improve agricultural extension services in Malawi. Tamanya Haraw, the Director of Planning and Development at Mzimba District Council, recently praised the project for promoting and strengthening the participation of farmers in policy formulation and implementation at district level.  Through the creation of District Stakeholder Panels, the project brings together government, agricultural organisations and the farmers themselves. One of the innovations, introduced by the Panels, are Agriculture Fairs that provide a link to markets for the farmers, as well as keeping them informed of new technologies and improved production methods and agricultural practices.

Another project is the Sustainable Trade Project (2012-2015) focusing on capacity building of female households by increasing their incomes through the production and sale of chickens. Vulnerable women in the Mzimba District are now earning stable incomes through this breeding project. A follow up project (2015-2020) on nutrition programmes using the chicken programme as a benchmark has been awarded MK2 billion.

This article talks about the District Stakeholder Panels project. 

 

Director of Planning and Development at Mzimba District Council, Tamanya Harawa, has commended the Government Flanders for supporting a project of the Farmers Union of Malawi, saying it has enhanced and strengthened structures at district level for improved agriculture extension services. The project of the Farmers Union of Malawi aims to strengthen farmer participation in policy formulation and implementation.

Speaking during a recent field tour of the project in Mzimba, Harawa said the project has also built good capacity with smallholder farmers and district committees for easy communication and coordination of activities.

The three year project, which was being run with funding from the Flemish Government, aimed at integrating and strengthening the capacity of farmers into Ddistrict Stakeholder Panels for improved agricultural extension service delivery in Malawi, was being implemented in two other districts, namely Kasungu and Rumphi. The District Stakeholder Panels bring together government officials, agricultural organisations and farmers at district level to guide and coordinate agricultural activities in the field.

“You see, Malawi faces a number of challenges when it comes to engaging farmers in policy formulation and implementation processes. Reports indicate lack of involvement of farmers in agricultural policy resulting in weak, dysfunctional or even non-functional District Stakeholder Panels (DSHP) largely due to poor capacity of farmers to articulate and present their demands to relevant extension service providers”.

“So what this project did was to strengthen or revamp these structures, which include village and district committees, in such a way that their activities are not only coordinated but also work together for an improved agricultural extension service delivery,” he said.

One smallholder farmer, Botchiwe Shaba, who holds an executive position in over five revamped committees across the district, said taking part in executive meetings has boosted her knowledge in farming activities because she has acquired new skills.

“I have been a farmer for so many years, but we worked in isolation; the district did their own things and we farmers did our own things to the point that whenever there was a disease outbreak, we used our own traditional methods. But this project has aligned and positioned farmers well to ask for better agriculture services,” she said.

Farmers Union of Malawi (FUM) Marketing and Development Coordinator, Chakazulu Mvula, said the project also helped identify areas of need in terms of development of activities in the area. He said projects in Mzimba rarely overlap because of the coordination.

“In the past whenever a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) wanted to start a project, chances of another NGO coming in with a similar project in the same area were very high due to a lack of coordination,” he said.

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