Agriculture Minister Launches Covid-19 Rapid Response Initiative

By Mercy Chirwa

Lilongwe, December 30, Mana: Minister of Agriculture, Lobin Lowe Tuesday launched Covid-19 rapid response initiative which seeks to avail to smallholder farmers with crops that are resilient to weather shocks.

The event took place at Mwatibu Primary School in the area of Traditional Authority (TA) Chadza in Lilongwe.

The Minister said the aim of the programme was to encourage smallholder farmers’ plant resilient crops such as cassava and sweet potatoes to recover from the negative effects of Covid-19.

The project is being implemented by Seeds Company Limited (MUSECO) in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture with funding from the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)

“Due to climate change the country continues to face numerous challenges including hunger hence bringing in of the plants that are drought resistant and mature faster,” Lowe said.

He added that, “We want farmers to be having food all the time since the advent of corona virus; farmers are failing to participate fully in the farming activities.”

Lowe said the effects of Covid-19 were having a toll on the lives of people in many aspects including health and food security.

He said small holder farmers who derive their daily livelihood from farming are already bearing the brunt as they cannot carry out farming operations as before since movements are restricted and with social distance in place it is hard to get money for inputs.

Lowe said the two crops are being taken for granted where people only value maize but the two have advantages of maturing quickly, drought tolerant and they grow without the application of inorganic fertilizers even under poor soils and they are resilient under climate change.

The Minister requested Malawians to accept and accommodate diverse food and change the eating habit and embrace the non-traditional food crops such as cassava and sweet potato.

MUSECO Board Chair, Martin Isyagi said Malawi has diverse crops of variable adaptation, production and value which puts it at an advantage when it comes to its ability to mitigate and adapt to a wide range of situations including Covid 19, climate change and biotic factors.

He added that the sad part is that seed companies have not been producing seeds for some of these crops like cassava, sweet potato, ricedespite the importance of these crops as they are resilient to climate shocks.

Isyagi said that MUSECO as an indigenous company, was taking the needs of Malawians at heart, apart from producing and selling diverse crops the organization engages small holder farmer, women and youth in seed production as a means of job creation.

TA Chadza added, “Am happy that my area is to benefit from this initiative as people will have enough food to eat while concentrating in preventive measures.

“Lilongwe is one of the districts which depend on agriculture, so with this initiative I hope many are to benefit and lives of these people will be transformed.”

He asked the Minister to extend the period of selling the Affordable Input Programme (AIP) as a lot of people have not yet bought the fertilizer saying they are still queues in the selling points which shows that a lot of people have not yet bought the fertilizer.