Malawi’s agriculture sector has failed to achieve the targeted annual growth of six percent set in the Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security for the past five years due to a lack of political will. The declaration stipulates that countries allocate at least 10 percent of their national budgets to agriculture to achieve this goal. However, despite allocations falling below 10 percent in only two financial years, the agriculture sector came close to reaching the growth target only once in the past five years.
The sector reported a 0.9 percent growth with a nine percent allocation in the 2018/19 financial year, and 5.9 percent growth with an 11.3 percent allocation in the 2019/20 financial year. In the 2020/21 financial year, growth was 3.4 percent with a 9.6 percent allocation, and in the 2021/22 financial year, it was 3.2 percent with a 14.3 percent allocation. In the 2022/23 financial year, growth was 3 percent with a 15.8 percent allocation. For the 2023/24 financial year, the sector is projected to grow by two percent with an 11.8 percent allocation.
Farmers are struggling to benefit from the investment primarily focused on the Affordable Input Programme, as other sectors have been neglected. Some farmers claim they are even failing to sell their produce due to a lack of markets, while others lament the absence of extension services to boost productivity.
Experts attribute the sector’s failure to grow to the quality of expenditure, as over 90 percent of agricultural expenditure happens at the central government level, leaving little to reach lower levels. Investment in infrastructure, development, and research could generate higher returns on agricultural growth. Diversifying resources to more productive sub-sectors and shifting focus from rainfed agriculture subsidies amid climate change challenges is recommended to achieve the annual growth target.
Despite substantial allocations to the agriculture sector, it has yet to meet the six percent annual growth target, raising concerns about the effectiveness of spending and the need for smarter allocations to foster sector growth.