Mindset change must start within government
President Peter Mutharika, in his speech Wednesday during the second congregation of Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar) in the Capital City, touched on an important aspect of farming versus the mindset of most Malawians.
Mutharika said it was wrong that some people view farming as the domain for the uneducated and thus called for mindset change, saying in many developed countries, even doctorate degree holders are into farming.
What the President said is true theoretically but flawed and detached from the realities in a country like Malawi where farmers are increasingly being frustrated by many obvious factors.
Since our economy is agro-based, we expect institutions such as Luanar to play a critical role in not only changing the mindsets but also research into modern farming methods, among many other areas.
But before the learned First Citizen went to the podium, it could have been wise of him to explain to Malawians why institutions such as Luanar and indeed its graduates have failed miserably to improve farming in Malawi.
Mutharika should not have dwelt on the mindset of people but explain why his regime and indeed others before his, have allowed graduates from Luanar to switch to other lucrative careers.
The President should not waste his time asking for mindset change on farming when, due to his government’s politicking, he has rendered crops such as maize useless for the farmer because their market locally is not only nonexistent but the selling price of the crop is way too low for a farmer to even recover the money invested in farm inputs.
More tellingly, by banning the export of crops such as maize, Mutharika is driving farmers out of farming when the economy of Malawi is supposed to be liberalised and driven by market forces of demand and supply and not State interventions on the pretext of averting looming hunger.
Mutharika should by now know that many farmers are stranded with tonnes of maize which they harvested three years ago because they cannot sell it anywhere to recover their money.
So instead of spending his negative energy asking for mindset change from the educated, Mutharika should tell us when his government would stop singing the song of value addition to crops that are grown in Malawi such as cotton and reverse this worrying trend of exporting jobs through the export of raw materials.
Indeed, you cannot expect people to venture into farming when the government is not putting in place mechanisms to ensure that our crops are processed right in the country.
Mutharika cannot preach the gospel of mindset change on farming when his government, due to political reasons, is in the forefront advancing the Farm Input Subsidy Programme that is not only unsustainable but encourages laziness, makes a farmer poorer and drives commercial farmers out of business.
Mindset change on farming should start with Mutharika and his government through sound policies to make farming viable commercially. Otherwise, we view Mutharika’s speech as another talk show and a missed opportunity to address the fundamental reasons that are rendering farming unfashionable.
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