Pamela Kuwali, the new broom at the Civil Society Agriculture Network (Cisanet) believes there is a lot of untapped potential in the agriculture sector.
She always hoped to assume a position of influence over agricultural policies in the country with no idea that God would honour that desire.
As the new captain of the ship at Cisanet, Kuwali says she would like to see Malawi becoming a food secure nation, with or without good rains.
“I would like to see rural farmers move away from subsistence farming into a business; I would like to see the area of land used for irrigation increase. We do have enough water resources. For that, I would like to see more agro-processing, whereby, produce such as fruits and vegetables are not left to rot, but processed into other food products that can even be exported. And I would like to see improvements in livestock farming,” she outlines.
Additionally, Kuwali desires an agriculture sector where more farmers learn about sustainable agricultural practises and how to effectively respond to climate change.
She further observes that it would be best if policy and programmes took into account the needs of vulnerable groups such as women and the youth who need support to meaningfully engage in agriculture and improve their lives.
“We need more and more investments into commercial farming to help create jobs and boost our economy. We also need more investment into agricultural research and technology. For all this to happen, we need commitment from all the key players, including government, civil society, development partners, private sector and even individuals. We need collaborative efforts. We need to commit resources towards agriculture and we need accountability and transparency in how those resources are managed,” she explains.
The 39-year-old ventured into the agriculture sector after a string of jobs in different areas since her graduation from Chancellor College in 1999. Her first job after attaining her degree in Public Administration was with the Department of Customs and Excise which later on became Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA).
“I worked as assistant station manager at Kanengo Office, and later joined the United States Embassy where I worked for nine years as public diplomacy specialist. I left the Embassy in 2011 and joined the United Nations World Food Programme as head of Policy, Donor/Government Relations and Public Information. I then joined National Democratic Institute for International Affairs in 2013 as senior programme manager for governance until February 2017. I am grateful for all my professional experiences as they have allowed me to impact my nation in one way or another,” says Kuwali.
However, she did not get to where she is without challenges. As a young child all was fine until her parents Maltida and Nipsy Kadamika got divorced and things changed.
“Life became very hard that I had to work during holidays to earn money for groceries and other needs. My mother could only manage to pay for school fees. Although I would have appreciated a less tough life growing up, I am grateful for those difficult moments because they helped me to be mentally strong.
“Those close to me like to say I am made of steel because I get less moved by outward circumstances, no matter how difficult. I always like to focus on things that are within my circle of influence and things that I can control. I choose my battles very carefully and believe that no matter how difficult a situation is, it always passes,” she advises.
Following her parents’ death, she assumed their role to her siblings.
“Psychologically it was tough and I had to make a lot of economic sacrifices. I, however, continued working hard and still believed the future was bright. I am thankful that my efforts were not in vain. My siblings are now independent, have good jobs and are able to look after their own families,” says Kuwali who has two brothers and two sisters.
Her wish is that Cisanet will continue to contribute towards agricultural development by providing space for dialogue on agricultural policy issues in Malawi.
She finds it very encouraging that the National Agricultural Policy (NAP) was launched last year, with efforts underway on the National Agricultural Investment Plan as an implementing tool for the policy.
“My desire is that we collaborate with all stakeholders to ensure commitment towards the priority policy areas in the NAP; that enough resources are allocated to these priority areas and that there is accountability and transparency in how those resources are used,” she says.
Kuwali extols the youth who have gone into agriculture saying they have chosen well considering that with the right strategies, agriculture can be very profitable.
Her advice is that they must have a vision of what they want to achieve through farming and have a plan towards it, which they must follow through.
She adds that they must have an entrepreneurial mindset and also be willing to learn.
Born in Zomba, she is married to Richard Kuwali with three children. She is a devoted Christian, a member of the women’s guild and a Sunday school teacher at Kaning’a CCAP Church.
She enjoys spending her free time with friends over good food and drinks.
“I am so thankful that God has surrounded me with amazing women who inspire me greatly. I love reading inspirational books and listening to praise and worship songs. My daily anthem is 10 000 reasons, a song by Matt Redman,” she says.
Kuwali went to Our Lady of Wisdom and St. Mary’s secondary schools. After attaining her Bachelor of Public Administration, she went further and received a Masters Degree in Public Administration and Development from University of Birmingham, UK in 2009.
Her upbringing has everything to do with what she is today, with a mother that was very strict and a disciplinarian, she says she always thought her mother was too tough on them.
“Looking back, I realise it was those standards that influenced me to be who I am. I am always asking myself whenever I want to do something if it’s the right thing. I do not expect a lot from people, but I set high expectations for myself. My father also played a great role in helping me to believe I would succeed in life.
“From a very young age, he always spoke positively into my future. I grew up believing that my future would be bright because that is what my father always told me. I can never thank God enough for my parents and the life lessons they taught me,” she concludes.