By Watipso Mzungu:
Farm Radio Trust (FRT) has said advent of digital tools in agriculture extension services will ease connection between farmers and extension workers.
Currently, Malawi has close to 1, 700 extension workers serving close to four million farmers translating into a ratio of one to 2,500 or 3, 000.
FRT Chief Executive Officer, George Vilili, said the digital tools will help in dealing with problems farmers face to access the services.
He made the remarks in Lilongwe recently during a workshop on digital agricultural extension organised with financial assistance from the Government of Flanders.
“Ideally, we are supposed to have one extension worker serving 150 farmers,” he said.
Director of the Department of Agricultural Extension Services (DAES), Jerome Nkhoma, admitted that the widening gap in the ratio between farmers and extension workers is negatively affecting output.
“Government has already made a number of steps to address this situation. At the moment, the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources will be graduating close to 400 extension workers. Soon after graduation, they will be deployed as officers in different districts in the country. This is just the first step,” he said.
Deputy General Representative of the Government of Flanders, Nikolas Bosscher, said extension workers in Malawi are overburdened.
“The ratio of the farmer to the extension worker is between 2, 000 to 3, 000. So, that’s quite a lot of work for one extension worker. There is a big gap. So, the idea is how we can close that gap through the use of new innovations such as radio, video, whatsapp groups, etc,” he said.