Special pullout the nation 10 September 2013
alawi’s economyis predominantlyagricultural, withabout 80 percent of thepopulation living in ruralareas. A recent World Bankreport notes that thesector accounts for morethan 80 percent of thecountry’s employmentand the majority of therural population produce84 percent of agriculturalproduce.However, whileagriculture remains themain source of growthand exports in Malawi,poverty is still widespreadin such areas where thereis majority of populationpractising agriculture.Land and watermanagement remains poorand much agriculturalproduction uses degradedsoils, leaving crops proneto water and low-nutrientstresses.Strengthening of theagricultural production isthus imperative and, sofar, strategies, policies,programmes and projectshave been implementedby various stakeholderswith the aim of enhancingproductivity.Still, availability of fertilizer, capital and goodseeds pose a big challengein agricultural production. A report by InternationalSeed Testing Association(ISTA) labels seeds as amaster key to success withcultivation. The report says farmers’expectations can only beachieved if the seed is trueto the selected variety.Even fertilizer becomesuseless if farmers areprovided with poor qualityseeds. A good and competitiveseed industry improvementis thus necessary to providenew varieties for allrelevant crops that farmersappreciate. And that is where seedsuppliers like Monsanto,Seed Co Malawi Limited,Peacock Enterprises,Pannar Seed, Nasfam,among other companieswhich provide farmers withseeds, come in.For an intensifiedagricultural production,such players in the seedindustry managed tocooperate through theformation of Seed Trade Association of Malawi(STAM) in 2004 toinfluence and strengthenpolicies and regulationsthat guide seed tradetowards sustainability andgood reputation to thebeneficiaries.Various reports haveindicated how theassociation has assistedthe Malawi governmentand farmers in general inaccessing quality seeds andcontrolling proliferation of fake seeds on markets.Principal Secretary in theMinistry of Agriculture, Jeffrey Luhanga,appreciates STAM’s effortsin Malawi’s agriculturalproduction.“The Ministry of Agriculture works withSTAM in implementationof a lot of activities andfarm input programmes.So far our relationship hasbeen highly regarded andcontinues to improve,” saysLuhanga.STAM chair, DellingsPhiri, says the associationis heavily involved inthe Farm Input SubsidyProgramme (FISP), a
STAM boosting livelihoods
government strategy touplift small-holder farmersby subsidising theirfertilizer and seeds.Phiri says STAMensures that the memberseed suppliers, whichit recommends to thegovernment to be givenFISP contracts, are meetingthe needs of the farmerthrough improved quality of seed and service delivery.“The seed suppliersthat we recommend areonly those that haveshown proof that they usebasic seed from approvedsources, and that the seedwas produced and processedlocally,” says Phiri, who isalso the managing directorfor Seed Co Limited.He explains that STAMworks with Seed ServicesUnit (SSU) which is theregulatory body responsiblefor seed certification,to ensure that the seedproduced by its membersis indeed of the rightquality and has passed fieldinspection standards.
“Since the onset of thesubsidy programme, themaize productivity atnational level has increasedfrom 1.2 metric tonnes perha to 2.2 metric tonnesper ha largely due to useof enhanced seed geneticssuch as hybrid seeds asopposed to OPV maizeseeds and recycled maizeseeds,” beams Phiri.STAM’s performanceis also seen through theincreasing number of members which has grownfrom 7 to 17 who strictlyadhere to the code of ethicsof the association.Phiri expounds that thisis because the associationhas a secretariat that isfunctioning and whoserole to the seed industry isvisible.However, STAM isstill encountering somedifficulties, including themajor challenge to controlproliferation of fake seedon markets.It has been reported thatvendors with no certificatesmix any grain with dyeand offer it to farmers.Explains Phiri: “Thishas been our majorchallenge. You find thatthe farmers, withoutknowledge of what theyare being offered, buy thefake seeds which hardilygerminate, leading themto make huge losses atthe time of harvest.”Even though STAMhas tried to lowerthe incidence of thismalpractice throughcertification of all seedsellers, the seed sector isstill affected.“The most criticalrequirement for thegrowth of the seedsector is the revisionof the Seed Act. Ourpresent Seed Act, whichwas revised some timeback, lacks seriousnessin curbing seed relatedmalpractices,” appealsPhiri, adding thatgovernment is already“very positive” towardsrevising the Act.
At the helm of STAM: Phiri