Members of the area stakeholder panel getting ready to meet. These area stakeholder panels are evidence of the move towards demand-driven extension programming in Malawi.
Photo: G. Heinrich

11.03.2014

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As with other countries, agricultural extension and advisory services (EAS) in Malawi are provided by public, private, and non-profit organisations. While it has become commonplace to refer to this collection of actors as a system, this claim is only valid in the loosest of terms, as many of the component parts do not functionally interact with others in an operational sense, tending rather to function as independent sub-networks within larger national, and international spheres of exchange. The potential for interaction and exchange between these component parts defines the potential for positive synergism, whereas the disconnect defines sources of inefficiencies, redundancies and conflict.

The Malawian Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development revised its extension policy in 2000, launching a number of highly progressive reforms, including the introduction of decentralised co-ordination and the principles of stakeholder accountability, gender equality, and demand-driven and pluralistic service delivery, among others (MAI, 2000). Since the introduction of these reforms, the importance of greater market integration, currently articulated through the value chain development concept, and the key challenges of climate change mitigation and adaptation have moved to the fore and are being built into the revised Department of Agricultural Extension Services strategy under preparation.

Governmental extension system

The Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development (MAIWD) Department of Agricultural Extension Services (DAES) is by far the largest extension provider in the country. DAES technical branch heads reported a total of 2,415 field and office staff members. However, staffing levels within DAES, across all levels, were reported to be approximately 70 per cent of the established positions, or a 30 per cent vacancy rate.

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