President Lazarus Chakwera might have been getting a lot of stick from his critics over his scheduled countrywide crop inspection tour but it seems he has the backing of the quarters that matter the most in the sector: farmers.
Various social economists, political commentators in the country, including social media influencers have been faulting Chakwera on the venture; largely claiming the tours ‘needlessly drain public resources’.
But in random interviews conducted on Wednesday, seasoned smallholder farmers have backed the President, saying the gesture’s economic significance outweighs the costs incurred over his travels.
“I may not be an economist but as a farmer, I can tell you that what President is doing is actually what has been missing all along; that’s exactly the gap that’s led to the dwindling standards in our agriculture as a country, said Frank Nasoni of Chitekwere Extension Planning Area in Nkhoma, Lilongwe.
Nasoni, 72, outrightly dismissed critics to the exercise, calling them young and lost and “have no idea of what they are talking about”
He explained. “In fact, it’s a pity that the President can only visit some selected areas; just a handful for that matter. Otherwise, you don’t know what it means for us the farmers to have someone that passionate in what we do. By they way, what other better way to channel resources in than through promoting best practices in agriculture, the country’s economic mainstay?”
His counterpart Kachilika Wilisoni from the neighbouring Sosola Village in Traditional Authority Mazengera in Lilongwe argued that the President ought to have started his crop inspection tours as early as he ascended to power.
“However, it’s better late than never but I still believe that such tours are a catalyst to a better and a prosperous farming season ahead among us farmers. Even soldiers respect an action-oriented general,” argued the 43 year old who boasts of having “made it in life” though the adoption of best farming practices, as promoted by various projects in the area.
The farmers were speaking on the sidelines of a field day organised for farmers under the Transforming Household Resilience in Vulnerable Environments (THRIVE), a project aimed at building secure livelihoods by promoting mindset change in farming.
The project is a brainchild of a consortium of World Vision Malawi, Vision Fund, Farm Concern International and government through the Ministry of Agriculture.
And in his press briefing on Tuesday at Sanjika Palace in Lilongwe on his return from a four-day state visit in Mozambique, Chakwera brushed aside suggestions that he would be doing the crop inspection tours to for his own gain.
Said the President in his response to the calls against the exercise: “Listen, I have just come from Nkhotakota where I interacted with some smallholder farmers there. Should we cut the tour today, what will that farmer in the north, who’s been producing food for ages, say of administration’s stance in stamping our hunger and ensuring the country is nutrition secure?
Do we even know what it means to the farmers? And are we even aware what the farmers mean to us all; to the country’s economy? From the noise around, I don’t think so!”
Chakwera however pledged to stop with his crop inspection tours if the calls come from the farmers themselves.
“Of course I would listen to them. I respect their voice and just like anybody, they matter too,” he said.
Much as the President’s sentiments may have been deemed, by others, to be mere lip service, Chakwera was vindicated of his claims in an event recorded during the exercise in Karonga on Thursday.
Addressing a developmental rally at Chisholowolo School Ground within Lupembe area in the district, the President managed to find a slot in his prepared speech to share his experience with a farmer earlier in the day.
Chakwera narrated how he was left touched by a gesture by a sesame farmer, only known to him as Mr Winga who had turned up for the crop inspection tour despite having some family emergency back home.
“I am told Mr Winga here insisted on coming to share his insights on sesame farming with me and my time despite that he just buried his mother-in-law a day before. This just shows what the crop inspection tours means to the farmers,” he said.
Himself overwhelmed with emotions, the President did condole the bereaved family before retiring for the day.
Galvanised by such stories, the President is set to continue with the exercise with Mzimba earmarked as his next destination.
While in the district, Chakwera is expected to inspect Lusangazi Dairy Cooperative and Mundunduma Cooperative Aquaculture Farm in Emsizini EPA; among other cites.
He is then expected to hold a developmental rally at Emvueni Primary School grounds; according to a schedule released by the Secretary to the President and Cabinet (SPC) Zanganganga Chikhosi.