Ordinarily, agriculture is understood as farming of food crops and raising of livestock by the majority of citizens in our country. This is the belief most parents have when their children get selected to study at the University Of Malawi- Bunda College of Agriculture. Even some of us had the same thinking when our schoolmates got selected to study at Bunda College of Agriculture.
It must be accepted that the belief was not only wrong but also primitive. Modern advances in economic systems have demonstrated that agriculture is a complex industry which includes many industries such as manufacturing companies of farm inputs like farm tractors, fertilizers, pesticides, flour mills, produce trading companies, butcheries, vegetable shops and government departments that provide agricultural extension services and commodity price forecasts. All these constitute the agriculture industry and are treated as such by the Minister of Finance.
It was therefore wrong to believe that a student who gets selected to Bunda College of Agriculture ends up working on farms, growing different types of crops. The fact is that a student who goes to Bunda may end up following any field of interest as mentioned above. What is also important is that at the core of the agriculture business is crops and livestock. This means we cannot talk about agriculture production without mentioning a crop or a livestock.
As both are living things, agriculture is subject to risk and uncertainties. The first risk is climate change. Any negative change in weather has negative impact to agriculture. This is the reason the international community started to link development to environment as far back as 1989 through the “Common Futures Agreement” in Brazil and the “Kyoto Protocol” in Japan in 2002. The Malawi government has also taken cognizance of the importance of weather and joined with full force the campaign against climate change for predictable environment.
The other risk to agriculture is diseases. All living things are vulnerable to illness. The same applies to plants and animals. There are times when farming is impossible because of diseases. Plants get infested by pests. Animals get attacked by ticks. This is why some industries were established to manufacture veterinary medicines or pesticides. The danger of chemicals is that some have long efficacy period which if consumed by humans may become poisonous.
This is why citizens of developed countries are very careful to import food products from developing countries. Unless they are assured of quality in terms of pesticides, it is not easy for some of them to import food products from developing countries. In Malawi, there is tendency by the majority of farmers to spray pesticides on their vegetables in the garden before asking the effective duration of the particular chemical. This is dangerous to the consumers.
About a couple of months ago, there were some elected representatives in our National Assembly who asked for the re-introduction of DDT in Malawi. It is not known whether, that was due to ignorance. The fact is that DDT was banned during the single party regime in compliance with international requirements. It was not banned because of disrespect to human rights. It has both environmental and health hazards. Therefore, the ban was in respect of human security. Government should be commended for not accepting to re-introduce DDT in Malawi. That decision should have been the end of the agriculture industry in Malawi.