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Malawi: FAO and EU call for increased focus on agriculture

FAO Director-General José Graziano and EU Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs conclude successful three-day visit
Photo: ©FAO/Bennie Khanyizira
Meeting at State House with EU Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs, FAO DG José Graziani Da Silva and Malawi President H.E Joyce Banda.

7 March 2013, Lilongwe/Rome - FAO and the European Union have reaffirmed their commitment to working closely together to tackle food insecurity in Africa and support sustainable agricultural development across the continent. 

At the end of a three-day joint visit to Malawi with EU Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said that encouraging diversification in the agricultural sector and improving market access would have a huge impact on ending hunger and malnutrition in Malawi, and across all of Africa. 

While Malawi has made progress by become self-sufficient in maize and even produces enough of that grain to support exports, some two million people in the country still remain food insecure, they noted. 

“Agriculture already contributes about 39 percent to Malawi’s GDP, employs 85 percent of its workforce, and contributes 90 percent to its foreign exchange earnings. Increasing investments in the agricultural sector provides a clear pathway towards improving the lives of rural populations. This is true for Malawi, and for Africa as a whole,” Graziano Da Silva said. 

Commission Piebalgs added that the EU is working to combat extreme poverty through an agenda for change, and that the promotion of sustainable agriculture and food- and nutrition security is a top focus in this effort. 

“The European Commission is about to release a new strategy on nutrition, and I am delighted to see that FAO is giving more attention to nutrition. The EU and FAO will continue working together in Malawi, Africa and across the globe on nutrition-sensitive food and agriculture systems”, he said. 

“FAO is committed to increasing its support, together with the European Union, to facilitate sound agriculture practices, thus increasing the income of poor rural families, and in particular women and youth,” Graziano da Silva also said. 

During their visit the FAO chief and UE development commissioner had fruitful discussions with President Joyce Banda and several national ministers, as well as with representatives of the private sector and civil society and international donors. These exchanges will help FAO finalize its Country Programming Framework for Malawi, defining the priorities of the Organization’s actions in Malawi. 

Helping farmers help themselves 

Graziano da Silva and Piebalgs also travelled to various field locations to see projects that are linking increased production in various crops and legumes with improved storage facilities and better local marketing systems, including rural infrastructures. 

At Chingonthi, near Lilongwe, Graziano joined with community members to inaugurate a new 700 metric ton-community grain bank that will contribute to reducing post-harvest losses by improving grain management and marketing. 

“Small scale producers, particularly in developing world countries like Malawi, are responding to the triple challenges of climate change, food price fluctuations and market instability by organizing themselves into cooperatives to join forces and collectively tackle national policy constraints,” said Graziano da Silva. 

FAO is convinced that small-scale farmers organized in cooperatives like those in Chingonthi group, as well as larger-scale, can lift themselves out of poverty and malnutrition by improving their access to markets, buying inputs at better prices, and obtaining financial and social protection services. 

“As the world prepares to celebrate International Women’s Day tomorrow, it is also important to recall that women make up more than 40 percent of the agricultural labor force in developing countries, and that increasing equality in women’s access to agricultural inputs like seeds, tools and fertilizers as well as to education and public services would contribute significantly to achieving food security and better nutrition for all,” noted Graziano da Silva. 

An important element of empowering women farmers and other rural food producers is to ensure that tenure systems and laws that govern how they access, manage and use land, fisheries and forests are fair, equitable, and transparent, he added. 

Last year, the Committee on World Food Security promulgated a set of voluntary guidelines on the responsible governance of tenure of land, fisheries and forests which provide clear guidance on how countries can and should go about doing this.