11 August 2020
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Monday, 16 March 2020 14:22

Minister inaugurates Blantyre ADD Field Days

Written by  Blackson Mkupatira
Nankhumwa followed by officals from Mulanje District Council at Thuchila RTC Nankhumwa followed by officals from Mulanje District Council at Thuchila RTC

Mulanje, March 16: Former Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, Kondwani Nankhumwa Friday presided over the inauguration of Blantyre Agriculture Development Division (ADD) Field Days held in Traditional Authority (TA) Nthiramanja in Mulanje District.

The event begun with field visits where the minister, accompanied by government officials, Chiefs, and stakeholders, visited Banana Orchard and a Mega Banana Nursery at Thuchila Residential Training Centre, Umodzi Farmer Field School Maize Variety Trial Field and livestock farmers in Majiya Village and,  a Banana Orchard owned by Senior Chief Nthiramanja.

Speaking during the event, held under the theme ‘Agriculture Enterprise Diversification, Partnerships and Revitalization of Banana Industry; Key to sustainable Food, Nutrition and Income Security,’ he said field days are crucial as they provide a platform where farmers could learn and adopt new technologies for increased yield and food security at both household and national level.

"This was why government was  encouraging ADDs and stakeholders national wide to patronize field days conducted in their districts and support farmers to participate so that they can learn and appreciate what their fellow farmers are doing," the Former Minister  said.

Nankhumwa urged both smallholder and commercial farmers to adopt new agricultural technologies, saying this would help them realize increase production even in the face of climate change.

"As you know, the agriculture sector is facing several challenges due to climate change like flooding, prolonged dry spells and emergence of new pests and diseases like Fall Army Worm.

"So as government, we are encouraging farmers to adopt climate smart agriculture by employing conservation farming, agroforestry, integrated pest management and growing of drought tolerant crops among other things, to counter such effects of climate change thereby increasing yield and profits," he said.

On revamping the banana industry, Nankhumwa said he was impressed with how Mulanje and Thyolo were doing following Banana Bunchy Top Virus (BBTV) that destroyed over 90 per cent hectares of bananas in the two districts.

"What I like most about this years' theme is that it's in line with government's plans. We are revitalizing the banana industry so that farmers can benefit as they once did.

"Again, we believe this would boost our economy as currently we are importing bananas from Tanzania and other neighboring countries," he said.

Nankhumwa hailed TA Nthiramanja for setting an example by having a health banana orchard, saying if all chiefs under him borrowed a leaf, Mulanje would have made remarkable strides.

Mulanje District Council Chairperson Isaac Blazio said many banana farmers were hopeless as the BBTV took away their source of income.

He commended the Ministry of Agriculture for its effort in fighting the virus and revamping the industry, saying some farmers have already started generating income from bananas after replanting health crop.

"Let me also thank extension workers for working tirelessly to disseminate information and sensitizing banana farmers on how to deal with the virus," Blazio said.

TA Nthiramanja said farmers in his area have been imparted with necessary skills and knowledge to feed and support their households through crop and livestock farming.

He lamented over lack of good markets for their produce saying many farmers are selling at a very low price.
"We have a lot farmers here who are doing irrigation agriculture, when they harvest their tomatoes or cabbage they are selling them at very cheap price like K500 a bucket and this makes them loose interest.

“I would like government help us form cooperatives do that we can sell in bulk at a reasonable price,” the Chief pointed out.