By Faith Kamtambe:
Shortage of extension workers in the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development has been cited as one of the major challenges hampering food production in the country.
World Bank Senior Agriculture Economist, Time Fatch, made the remarks during a field visit to a number of districts, which the Ministry of Agriculture organised under World Bank’s Agriculture Sector Wide Approach (Aswap 2) Project.
Officials in districts such as Ntcheu and Dedza lamented high vacancy rates.
“The issue of manpower is a problem not only in Ntcheu or Dedza; this is an overall problem for Malawi agriculture. The vacancy rate for extension workers is very high,” he said.
Under the project, some students are being supported to study at Natural Resources College (NRC), a constituent college of Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources, as part of efforts to fill the positions.
“Under the project, we are supporting 200 extension workers who are studying at NRC. After studies, they will be deployed to various areas to lessen the problem,” he said.
Under the Aswap 2 Project, selected farmers were given improved crop varieties with the aim of increasing yields.
Aswap 2 Coordinator, Henry Msatilamo, said farmers that are benefitting from the project are expected to harvest more yields this year.
“Looking at the crops we have in the field, we are double-sure that we are going to have some good impact at the end,” he said.
One of the farmers, Ntcheu-based John Chatuluka, said he was hopeful of bumper yields after he embraced improved seeds.