LILONGWE-(MaraviPost)-The National Planning Commission has hailed the Agricultural Transformation Initiative (ATI) for taking a keen interest in helping tobacco farmers diversify with the crop as it is facing pressure from
anti smoking lobbyists.

The ATI held its first ever agricultural transformation summit in Lilongwe where emerging trends in the tobacco market took centre stage.

The ATI in preparing for a smoke free future is facilitating globally competitive economies and smallholder farmers.

It has embarked on a twelve year program in the country whereby it will be closely working with tobacco farmers

Speaking at the end of the summit, Phillip Madinga who is one of the commissioners at NPC  said the transformation summit will help expedite diversification in the  tobacco industry as farmers will be
given a chance to have fall back plan since the crop is facing pressure from anti-smoking lobbyists.

“It is very imperative now that we need  to encourage our tobacco farmers to embark on diversification and start growing other crops such as soya, groundnuts, beans even rice. As NPC we will continue our
relentless efforts to be one of the leading players to help Malawian farmers get just rewards for their sweat. As a leading think tank for long term and medium term national planning  we will always be in the fore front to planning the national development priorities for Malawi.

Agriculture transformation is one area we are sure can help Malawi boost its economy within the short and long medium term,” said Madinga.

Chairperson for the National Planning Commission Professor Richard Mkandawire agreed with  Madinga that the commission is encouraged by strides government and other organizations are taking in making sure that the country diversify its agriculture sector.

Said Mkandawire.”We are encouraged  with efforts being undertaken by the ATI in taking a keen interest to help tobacco farmers. Currently Malawi is looking at how best to diversify its farming activities especially in the tobacco sector and as NPC will play our rightful role.

“It is possible to diversify tobacco farming alongside other crops and we believe that this is the right way to go. We will also be working closely with institutions such as Luanar to make sure that we produce more scientists and other professionals in the agriculture sector because Malawi is an agri-based economy.”

According to a statement from ATI the body will create alternative livelihoods for smallholder tobacco farmers through structured value chain development, investments and lading advancements in science and technology, resulting in secure income streams, improved food security status and overall health for smallholder farmers.

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