Malawi is mainly dependent on agriculture. Although we have a Ministry of Mining, we still call tobacco our green gold. Although we talk about high unemployment rates in the country, we fail to realise that farming could be an important part of the employment sector. Percentages that agriculture contributes to our economy are quite encouraging. The father and founder of the Malawi nation Dr. Hasting Kamuzu Banda used to say chuma chiri mu nthaka, literally meaning ‘wealth is in the soil’.
Despite having agriculture as the main source of income for most households, farming is given very little attention by the nation. Farmers were supposed to be recognised in a special way. When giving out medals to various achievers, a good number of medals could have been going to farmers who have made a difference in our communities. Of course, writers have done their part and so have historians, but looking at the economy of our country, farming could have topped the list.
In Ghana, a National Farmers Day is commemorated each year on the first Friday of December to honour farmers. The event acknowledges the vital role farmers play in the nation’s socio-economic development. In particular, Ghana acknowledges farmers’ untiring efforts at feeding its growing population, providing raw materials to the nation’s industries, and contributing substantially to the nation’s foreign exchange earnings.
The programme of activities usually planned for the celebration include a national farmers’ forum at which the award winners are expected to interact with policy makers and experts on some technological advances in the agricultural sector and also make their views known. Prizes are awarded to deserving farmers and fishers in order of best practices and outputs.
The ministry has noted with pride the interest shown by some organisations/institutions in agriculture and the linkage they provide to farmers by ensuring the availability of either credits, inputs for production or processing of produce to reduce post-harvest losses.
Besides, their continuous support of the Farmers’ Day has enabled the Agriculture Ministry in Ghana to enhance the quality and quantity of prizes presented to the award winners. It is in furtherance of this partnership that the ministry recognises and invites different organisations to be major sponsors of the national farmers’ forum.
During the celebration, exhibition is mounted by institutions and individuals to showcase and share new ideas on technological developments in the agricultural sector in line with our resolution to apply science and technology to modernise our agricultural landscape.
This culminates in the improvement of productivity and profitability of our operations by following up on these new ideas.
In Tanzania, Farmers Day is celebrated on August 8 each year and is declared holiday. Locally is called “NaneNane” and it means “eight eight” in Swahili (the 8th day of the 8th month, thus the name NaneNane). This day is meant to celebrate the farmers of Tanzania and their contribution to the Tanzanian economy. There are festivals and fairs around the country.
In Zambia, similar celebrations take place on the first Monday of August, their Farmers’ Day. The celebration is marked by a national agricultural show where the expansive show grounds in Lusaka come alive with farmers, politicians and ordinary citizens and their families having fun. There are games and exhibits and carnival rides for children, agricultural demonstrations and awards, performances, food and more!
Of course, locally, the Ministry of Agriculture organises field day and agricultural shows, but we need more. A National Farmers’ Day would have given our farmers the much-deserved recognition for their work.
A national holiday for farmers would have offered the true meaning of the contribution agriculture is making to our lives and given the farmers a good platform to be heard and to network.
—The author is an agricultural research scientist in The Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security but writes in his own capacity.