Former deputy vice-chancellor of Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar) Emmanuel Kaunda has added his voice to calls to pay attention to social protection and agricultural interventions to reduce poverty.
Kaunda, who has been instrumental in configuring the shape of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (Caadp) National Agricultural Investment Plans (Naips) for many countries in the region, said in a write-up that there are inherent policy tradeoffs between the goals of raising agricultural productivity and achieving social protection of the country’s poor and vulnerable households.
He agreed with the Local Economy Impacts and Cost Benefit analysis of Social Protection and Agriculture in Malawi study that social protection programmes such as social cash transfers (SCTs) have the largest direct impact on incomes and poverty.
Kaunda said there are important synergies between productive agricultural programmes and social protection such that interventions that raise agricultural productivity are found to lower food costs and this has positive real-income effects for poor households.
He said: “SCT increases food demand and create new markets for food production. If the policy goal is to raise rural incomes and also increase crop production, the recommendation that combining social protection and productive agricultural interventions is a more effective strategy than doing either one of these alone”.
Kaunda said while calls are also being made to consider increasing households’ farming land, this should be accompanied by an increase in the number of irrigation schemes as land holding is usually larger in schemes.
“We need a deliberate investment in science and technology, including into research institutions such as universities so that as Malawi, we are able to manufacture our own irrigation equipment and stop relying on imported equipment. This would make irrigation development sustainable,” he said.
Meanwhile government said it is promoting irrigation farming and developing irrigation schemes across the country to increase crop output.
In an earlier interview, Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Joseph Mwanamvekha said the ministry is encouraging farmers to use recommended agricultural practices when growing crops, including proper management and conservation of soil and water for increased crop production. n