Such high hopes often times are thwarted when unsuspectingly, farmers buy poor quality and fake seeds from unscrupulous agro-dealers.
Down the memory lane, one Christina Chafulumira, a farmer at Katemalinga in Chikwawa, recalls how she was duped by fake seed sellers in the 2014-2015 growing season. They cunningly told her that the maize seed inside the packet was a double cobbing variety. To her dismay it proved otherwise. A total daylight robbery, manifested with poor yields in that season.
“Fake seeds are a big setback to agricultural productivity. I thought I planted a double cobbing variety but later I discovered that it was just common seed they just tinted it to hoodwink farmers. I count it as a total loss because output from the field was below my expectations,” said Chafulumira.
Another farmer in the area, Grevazio Khamalatha, narrated to MBC the terrible experience he went through in the same season due to fake seeds. He said there are growing numbers of conmen who show up during rainy season to make fast money through selling fake seeds.
Grevazio Khamalatha inspecting his maize field in Chikwawa
“The seed packet carried a tag; ‘Early maturing variety, 90-100 days’. This was unavoidable bait as you know Chikwawa is prone to adverse effects of climate change so planting short season varieties is highly encouraged, but alas! I was duped. You can even appreciate the stunting growth of the crop stand,” said Khamalatha.
How bad is the situation?
The malpractice has been developing on the market and on several occasions the media have highlighted a number of incidences on fake seeds and fertilizers with screaming headlines:
• Minister speaks tough on fake seeds ¬- Business Malawi, 31 May 2018.
• Malawi Seed Association warns farmers of fake seeds - Nyasatimes, Nov 7 2018.
• Poor farmers duped - Times Group 29 December 2018. Some Beneficiaries of Farm Input Subsidy Programme (FISP) being sold underweight fertilizer bags.
Against this background, Farmers Union of Malawi (FUM) is championing consultations for the draft Seed Bill 2019. Recently FUM engaged Association of Business Journalist (ABJ) members at Sunbird Nkopola Lodge in Mangochi to sensitize, draw input and highlight on the essence and progress made on draft Seed Bill 2019.
According to the organisation’s Chief Executive Officer, Prince Kapondamgaga, the country is not realizing its fullest potential in agricultural productivity. One of the paramount factors being poor quality seeds hence the need for regulation and control of production, processing, sale, importation, exportation and testing of seeds. He said in other countries within SADC yields of Maize can hit 10,000 metric tonnes per hectare while in Malawi output is as low as 2000 metric tonnes.
Prince Kapondamgaga, CEO of FUM delivering a point
"It is very crucial that the country develops a regulatory framework that supports the production and marketing of seed because existence of cross-border trade or intra trade calls for sanity so that we achieve the quality or standard that we desire to spearhead the agricultural transformation agenda that is espoused in the National Agricultural Policy.
“FUM is mandated to engage various non-state actors to solicit their input in the proposed new Seed Bill, hence our engagement with Business Journalists as they form an integral part in the development process of the new Seed Act,” Kapondamgaga said.
In an interview with MBC, Spokesperson for Ministry of Agriculture, Hamilton Chimala, commended all efforts being undertaken by FUM and other agricultural partners on the development of the new Seed Bill 2019.
Hamilton Chimala, Spokesperson, Ministry of Agriculture
“The Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development is appreciative of collaborative efforts by different partners to sensitive stakeholders on the draft seed bill. The bill is critical as it will regulate the seed sector and creates advantages both to seed suppliers and farmers by regulating the seed sector in providing certified quality seed and prosecuting deviance while also providing opportunities for Malawi Seed suppliers to compete and supply to regional markets too.
“This means increased production per hectare for farmers leading to food, nutrition and income security among many benefits for the Seed Bill once passed,” Chimala said.
In his presentation titled ‘Contextual Assessment of the Seed Sector – A Value Chain Approach’, Director of Research, Policy and Partnerships for FUM, Kennedy Lweya, said Seed is at the Centre of the Solution to low agricultural productivity.
He said, “Less than 50% of all farmers in low-income countries have access to yield-enhancing improved seed, as such, increased seed supply features as an important poverty reduction strategy in several Sub-Saharan African countries.”
On his part General Secretary for ABJ, Taonga Sabola, said the association is privileged to have FUM as its partner and commended it for engaging ABJ members at such a stage of the Seed Bill.
Members of ABJ and FUM officials
“Members of the media are in constant engagement with the masses and our role as communicators is to relay factual and well researched messages. It becomes difficult to play such a role when the fourth estate gets engaged at the very end of the process which usually brings a disjoint. Having Business Journalists on board will create a smooth transition from development to sensitization of the Seed Bill,” said Sabola.
Malawi is an agro-based economy. The agriculture sector accounts for over 40% of the country’s GDP and above 80% of the country’s export earnings are derived from the sector.
ABJ draws its membership from media practitioners spread across the country who specialise in writing business stories from various viewpoints including agriculture. The media engagement was under the auspices of Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).