Malawi: Minister Lowe Hails Maward Program for Improving Agriculture Sector
By Chris Loka
The Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Lobin Lowe has commended the Malawi African Women in Agriculture Research and Development (MAWARD) programme for their efforts towards realization of an inclusive, agriculture-driven prosperity in the country.
Lowe made the remarks at the national learning event organized by MAWARD on Friday at Maziko events garden in Lilongwe under the theme “Women making impact in Agricultural Research and Development”.
The minister said through the program, Malawian women are implementing initiatives that promote more inclusive and gender-responsive agricultural research and development that responds to different priorities and needs of both women and men across the agricultural value chain.
He said those interventions assist to bridge the gender gap that contributes to the low agricultural productivity.
He said agriculture is a backbone of the country’s economy, and as such, it needs the necessary attention it deserves.
“Agriculture is and will remain one of the key priorities of Malawi’s development agenda considering its importance to Malawi’s economy, contributing 29 percent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 65 percent of employment and 67 percent of export earnings. Although the majority (70 percent) of full time farmers in our nation is women who produce 80 percent of food for home consumption, they continue to be disadvantaged in a number of ways.
“This is where MAWARD can make a positive difference by continuing to build the science and leadership skills of its members who work at different agriculture organizations within our nation,” he said
Lowe, however, emphasized that the goals and activities of MAWARD are in agreement with government policy goals and his ministry will give the necessary support in an effort to build capacity of individuals and institutions in the agriculture sector.
He thanked MAWARD for motivating secondary school girls who participated during the event, saying the participation of youth in agriculture in Malawi is limited partly also due to their negative perception of the sector as unattractive.
MAWARD Board Member Dr. Wezi Mkwaila said the event was organized to put on the spotlight African Women in Agriculture Research and Development (AWARD) alumni who are making impact in the communities and also to share experiences and learn from each other.
Mkwaila said during the event, they shared experiences in Research, Leadership, Mentorship, Entrepreneurship and community outreach programs.
“Specifically, we shared the impact of AWARD fellowship, created demand and interest for MAWARD services, and we sought to establish partnerships and collaborations with interested stakeholders like MASSAVA and NASFAM,” she said.
In her presentation, Bettie Kawonga said mentoring and role modeling is one of the main objectives of AWARD-Malawi Chapter.
“Mentoring is a great tool for transferring knowledge and skills to young men and women in agriculture research and development and it also helps young people to focus their energies in a particular direction which is necessary in achieving their goals,” she said.
The event brought together 30 students from Mitundu and Lilongwe Girls secondary schools.
MAWARD is a brainchild of AWARD, a career development programme based in Kenya, which through tailored fellowships equips top women agricultural scientists across sub-Saharan Africa to accelerate gains by strengthening their research and leadership skills.
Malawian women scientists have benefited directly from AWARD fellowship program since its inception in 2018.
Among the benefits registered by alumni include promotions, enhanced leadership abilities, increased engagement with farmers and greater visibility.