By Patricia Kapulula
The Malawi government and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) on Monday signed and exchanged letters for the third phase of the China Aid Agricultural Technical Cooperation Farm Project.
The new phase of the project will disseminate and share more useful technology to help Malawi reinvigorate the rural areas, train the youths in agro science, undertake technology localization demonstration programs and spread experiences in agro production technology and economy development in order to increase income of local farmers.
The signing of the agreement is one of the measures to implement the September 2018 Beijing Summit of China-Africa Cooperation Forum which announced eight major initiatives and one of those was improving agricultural technologies.
Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development, Joseph Mwanamvekha who signed the agreement on behalf of Malawi government, thanked PRC for the support and made an assurance that government of Malawi will provide all the necessary support for the smooth implementation of the project.
He said Malawi economy is agro based and as such the project will go a long way in improving agricultural productivity amongst farmers in the country.
In Malawi agriculture generates approximately 35 percent of the Gross Domestic product (GDP), provides 84 percent of employment and is a source of over 80 percent of the country’s foreign exchange earnings.
Mwanamvekha hailed the implementation of the last two phases of the project saying it has left a positive impact on farmers through improved productivity in terms of yield per hectare and improved income thereby empowering them to support their families.
The first phase of the technical cooperation agreement started in 2012. And the second phase ran from May 2016 to May 2019 which saw more than 2,000 Malawians trained in agricultural technology.
“The past two phases have benefited farmers in modern ways of farming in order to improve farm productivity and yield. Farmers have benefited and are able to produce more and make more income. The third phase will build upon the success of the previous two phases,” said Mwanamvekha.
The Chinese government will dispatch eight experts to Malawi to conduct research, demonstration, promotion and training on agricultural technologies used in the growing of vegetables, fruits, maize and rice.
Mwanamvekha said this will increase the number of farmers who are trained in modern farming technologies.
“The support we have received today will help us improve productivity. It will help our farmers to train in good agricultural practices and eventually translate into increased income to the farmers,” he said.
In order to reach out to more farmers so that the country gets more gains through the project, Mwanamvekha said Malawi government will push for the need to extend the project to other districts across the country.
PRC ambassador to Malawi, Liu Hong Yang said his government decided to help Malawi in the agriculture sector because the country is agro based and a lot of people are employed in this sector.
He said his government would like to see an increase in the output hence this phase.
“This is a continuation of the last two phases and our focus is on technology transfer to farmers. We would like to see an increase in scope of activities for the new phase and train more people who will have some instruments, tools and machinery of cooperation in those areas,” he said.
He said China would like to see Malawian farmers equipped with the right knowledge, right tools to grow vegetables and maize among other crops and to use machinery and tools for the benefit of themselves.
The Chinese will also build infrastructure, provide necessary equipment and goods, and carry out agricultural production experiments and other customized training courses for the Malawian counterparts.
The third phase will start once the Chinese experts arrive in the country and will run for 36 months. The total amount for this project is US$3 million (approximately MK2.6 billion).
Malawi and China have two agricultural cooperation projects which are China-Malawi Agricultural Technology Farm in Lilongwe and China-Aid Malawi Agricultural Technology Demonstration Centre in Salima. Both of these are grant assistance programs by the Chinese government.
The China-Malawi Agricultural Technology Farm in Lilongwe which started in 2014 has completed two phases and has eight senior agricultural experts since 2014 and has assisted students from agricultural universities including the Natural Resources College (NRC) for onsite practice.-MANA