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The first CARD working week was held in Lilongwe, Malawi in April 2019

Rice is grown in Malawi as both a food crop and cash crop.  It is grown almost entirely by smallholder farmers under irrigated, upland and rainfed lowland ecosystems.  The rice irrigated ecosystem that constitutes about 15% contributes 55% of the total paddy production.  Despite being a largely maize-producing and maize-consuming country; the demand for Malawi grown aromatic rice varieties such as Kilombero is growing strongly in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) markets, especially in South Africa, Zambia and Mozambique.  Recognizing this market trend, the Government of Malawi has identified rice as one of the key strategic crops. 

Although Malawi couldn’t join the CARD initiative during the first phase (2008-2018); it has independently set out National Rice Development Strategy (2014-2018) with support from Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD).  Under the second phase of the CARD (2019-2030) however, Malawi had expressed interest in joining the CARD initiative.  The Steering Committee members and General Assembly of the CARD had readily accepted and warmly welcomed Malawi as its member in October-2018.  The Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development (MoAIWD) has subsequently set up a NRDS taskforce with a mandate for developing second NRDS under the guidance of the CARD.  Towards this task, the taskforce requested the CARD Secretariat to organize a preliminary working week. In response, the Secretariat despatched Dr A. Kathiresan, the regional consultant (reporter) to provide technical assistance in facilitating the CARD working week.     

CARD activity and the results

The objectives of the preliminary CARD working week are to (i) apprise the progress made under the NRDS-1 (2014-2018) (ii) initiate discussions on the various challenges and opportunities along the rice value chain in Malawi, and (iii) meet with the Permanent Secretary of MoAIWD, Ambassador of Japan and JICA-Malawi officials.  The NRDS taskforce organized the CARD working week at the Riverside Hotel in Lilongwe between 23rd April and 26th April.  About 20 members of taskforce representing public (government officials overseeing crop production, policy and planning, irrigation, research and extension services and Bureau of standards) and private sector (cooperatives, seed production and farm machinery services) of the rice value chain participated in the discussions.  The outputs from the discussions against the two above-mentioned objectives are summarized below: -

  

Participants for the first CARD Working Week in Lilongwe

 

Assessment of progress under the NRDS-1 (2014-2018) 

The NRDS-1 primarily aimed at (a) coordinating the stakeholders of the rice value chain and (b) providing support to production, processing and marketing.  Under the NRDS-1; the government has set up a National Rice Development Platform (NRDP) for the stakeholders and facilitated policy dialogues.  New cooperatives have been organized under irrigation schemes, and a union of rice cooperatives has been put in place.  The NRDP has also recently developed trading standards for rice grains in the country.  In regards to the paddy production; although the NRDS-1 did not set any clear baseline nor targets for area and total outputs; it set out a ‘business plan’ through which the farmers would provide a fee for availing support from the NRDP.  Unfortunately, such a plan didn’t take-off, due to lack of enthusiasm from the rice farmers on the fee-based business arrangement.  Under the NRDS-1, the area under rice cultivation has only marginally increased from 65,275 Ha in 2013-14 to 68,938 Ha in 2018-19; and the paddy production has increased from 125,156 tons to 134,229 tons during the same period.  The participants expressed concern over the lack of baseline data for the evaluation of the NRDS-1.  Hence, the participants agreed to develop a concept note seeking sponsorship for collecting and consolidating all the available data under the rice value chain.  The Consultant assisted the participants in drafting a concept note for funding from the development partners and government. 

Challenges and opportunities along the rice value chain 

Since the NRDS-1 has now drawn to a close; the taskforce discussed the current issues and the solutions against the identified issues across the value chain.  The participants were able to discuss the following value chain segments: seed, fertilizer, water management and mechanization.  Major issues identified under these value chain segments are highlighted below: - 

Seed:  Impurities in existing seed lots of popular varieties, Low usage of certified seed, and inadequate planning of production and marketing 

Fertilizer & Soil fertility management:  Poor enforcement of regulations of fertilizer quality and weight standards and lack of site-specific fertilizer recommendations

Water Management & Irrigation:  Inadequate maintenance of water-distribution structures by the water user associations, insufficient out-scaling efforts for proven technologies such as System of Rice Intensification (SRI)

Mechanization:  Higher cost of machineries, poor after-sales services, inadequate engagement of youth in machinery hiring and service-provisions

 

Meeting with the Permanent Secretary, MoAIWD   

The CARD Consultant met with the Permanent Secretary (PS) of the MoAIWD and informed that Malawi is now officially inducted into the CARD initiative.  The PS thanked the CARD Secretariat and assured full commitment and cooperation from the Govt. of Malawi towards the CARD processes.  The reporter briefed the PS on the objectives and the expected outputs of the present CARD working week in Malawi. The reporter also informed the consensus from the NRDS taskforce on the need for data collection and requested the PS to guide on seeking sponsorship for the activity.  The PS agreed to take the concept note for discussion with the focal point of the NRDS soon.

 

Meetings with Ambassador of Japan and JICA officials   

The CARD consultant and participants of the workshop participated in a ‘Study session on rice value chain in Malawi’ organized by the Embassy of Japan.  The session was chaired by the Ambassador and the reporter presented a brief introduction on the CARD initiative and its activities under the phase-1.  The session was attended by representatives from research institution, Export bank, African Institute of Corporate Citizenship (AICC) and private investors.  At the end of the session, the reporter also provided a wrap-up of the meeting.  The discussions during the session noted that the development of the rice value chain requires different strategies for the irrigated ecosystem and other marginal environments.  Given the huge export potential, the roles of public and private sector in three ecosystems need to be spelled out under the NRDS-2.  The Ambassador assured of strong support for the development of the rice value chain through JICA activities. 

After the conclusion of the working week, the reporter met the Deputy Resident Representative of the JICA-Malawi office and briefed him on the purpose and outputs of the working week.  The official assured the reporter of continued support from the JICA on future activities of the CARD in Malawi.   

Way forward

The NRDS taskforce members agreed that the following actions require to be taken as next steps under the CARD process in Malawi: -

Submit the project concept note on data collection to the PS and seek his guidance on implementation (May-June 2019); by the NRDS focal point (Mr. Martin Kausi)

Organize a NRDS working week to continue the discussions on the rice value chain segments, goals, objectives and strategies (July 2019); by the taskforce members through communication with the CARD Secretariat.