A study on the operationalisation and potential for mega farms in Malawi has recommended that the project should focus on strengthening and supporting existing large farms as well as addressing factors that limit agriculture productivity.
The study, done by Mwapata Institute, an independent agricultural policy think-tank, has further indicated that the mega farms should be owned and managed by private investors whose objectives will be to use the land for productive purposes.
The study, titled ‘The potential for mega farms to transform Malawian agriculture’, observed that government would operate mega farms less efficiently compared to the private sector, as such, the main role of the government should be to provide an environment for private sector operations.
Reads the study report in part: “The government, meanwhile, should provide a conducive enabling environment and ensure that idle or unutilised land is made available through lease agreements with clear performance criteria to prospective private mega farm investors.
“Other roles of the government may include ensuring access to financing, facilitating access to large domestic and export markets and providing support in the form of incentives and investments in irrigation, electricity and other supporting infrastructure.”
For the project to succeed, the study, done by Anderson Gondwe, Bonface Nankwenya, William Burke, Milu Muyanga, William Chadza and Levison Chiwaula, has recommended that policies should be formulated to ensure meaningful interaction between mega farms and surrounding smallholder farmers and communities.
“These relationships should extend beyond simply hiring labour. For example, a mega farm could provide contract farming arrangements with the surrounding communities, providing them with high-quality inputs, extension services, production technologies and an output market,” it reads.
The study further said smallholder farmers from the surrounding communities can be integrated into the mega farms through employment and marketing.
“This is necessary if the growth of mega farms is to occur in a socially responsible way,” reads the study.
The study indicated that mechanisation, value addition, availability of year-round water supply for irrigation, supporting infrastructure such as access to smooth tarmac roads, skilled labour and management and good quality arable land, should be critically looked into and considered to make the project a reality.
Ministry of Agriculture spokesperson Gracian Lungu is on record as having said that the ministry intends to implement the mega farms concept using different models.
“It will either be government wholly owned, privately wholly owned or under public private partnership,” he said.
In June this year, President Lazarus Chakwera instructed the Ministry of Agriculture to roll out the mega farms project within six months.