“FUM’S NEW STRATEGIC PLAN WILL INCREASE FARMERS’ INCOMES”

Recently, Farmers Union of Malawi (FUM), the voice of farmers in Malawi, launched its 3rd Strategic Plan (SP) in Lilongwe. The new plan covers a five year period between 2017 and 2021 and the ultimate goal of the new document is to ensure increased farmers’ incomes thereby contributing to Malawi’s socioeconomic development. In this interview, our Contributor, DUMBANI MZALE talks to FUM Chief Executive Officer PRINCE KAPONDAMGAGA to briefly highlight the focus areas of FUM’S new blue-print.

1-How important is this new Strategic Plan to FUM’s core mandate in terms of mission, vision and objectives?

To begin with, it is very important for any organization to define its strategic direction by defining key strategic areas that it needs to focus on a defined period. This helps an organization to remain strong, focused and also relevant to its clients in the ever-changing external-environment. Therefore, FUM is responding to the changing environment as you know FUM just like any Non State Actors (NSAs) compliments government’s efforts in the socioeconomic development of the economy. Therefore, the strategic planning process gives FUM an opportunity to reflect on key questions such as where are we? How do we get there? What has changed in the external environment? And how do we respond to the changes to keep our relevance? What strengths and weaknesses do we have internally and how do we build on such strengths as well as how do we address the weaknesses. Overall, we need to ask ourselves whether our vision is still relevant; emerging issues facing our institution; relevance and delivery of our programmes and activities, among others. We have three operational pillars as a Union and these are Research, Policy and Partnerships; Institutional Development and Investments; as well as Agribusiness and Marketing. But still we have to define what we want to achieve within a specific timeframe. Today Information Technology is shaping how we do things globally and it’s fast changing. We should be in a position to reflect on whether we are compliant to the new technology on the market.

2-Briefly, would you share some of the key highlights of this new FUM strategic plan?

First and foremost, it is important to state that we instituted an independent evaluation for the previous SP which covered the period, 2011 to 2015 and commissioned analysis of the current context to inform the development of the new SP. The process of developing our strategic plans entailed defining our strategic objectives for the next five years while taking cognizance of our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in our operating environment. The current FUM Strategic Plan has been developed in line with the Government of Malawi's agricultural transformation agenda and regional and global policy framings. The theme for our SP is ‘Towards Inclusive agriculture transformation: Enhancing farmers Income through increased Farmer productivity, food and export diversification, access to structured markets.’

We do understand the challenges that farmers are facing for them to enhance their productivity and also for the country to expand its food and export base. The ultimate goal is to ensure increased farmers' incomes and thereby contributing to Malawi’s socioeconomic development. It is important to note that FUM cannot address all the challenges in the agriculture sector in isolation but we would like to contribute towards the overall efforts, with Government as a goal owner to address these challenges.

3-Precisely, what are the specific pillars of this new document?

Sure. On our pillar number one, FUM seeks to contribute towards evidence-based and consistent agriculture policy environment. We say, we shall endeavor to lobby and advocate for a favorable policy environment that will be conducive for farmers and attract investments in this sector. As a sector, we would like to have development and implementation of consistent and evidence-based policies and a regulatory framework that supports the inclusive transformative agenda. This will also focus on FUM's capacity to generate evidence and effectively engage in policy dialogue. FUM recognizes the need for building alliances with other strategic NSAs for policy advocacy. The second pillar is enhancing access of farmers to agribusinesses and marketing services. This focuses on farmers to access finance and farm inputs and other improved technologies for increased productivity as well as improved access to high value structured markets. Pillar number three looks at building resilience of farming systems in order to build farmers' resilience to agriculture shocks through interventions such as irrigation and promotion of crop and livestock diversification, among others. We want our farmers accessing imported varieties of different crops that are resilient to drought, diseases and other shocks. As a forth pillar, we want to see women and youth farmers economically and socially empowered. We want their income enhanced and at the same time we want them to participate in key leadership and decision making positions within our structures. Finally, pillar number five focuses on FUM's institutional capacity strengthening. As a Union, we have done a lot in terms of building our structures and systems. But as a growing institution in a dynamic world, we think more still needs to be done, especially by embracing internationally acceptable standards.

4- Within the FUM family, who should embrace this new Strategic Plan?

Actually this is a document for all farmers in Malawi. For this SP to be successful, it will depend on the commitment of FUM its members, management and staff, continued collaboration and support from government, development partners, the private sector and other NSAs.

6-After the launch of this new Strategic Plan, what next?

Implementation of the SP will be our main pre-occupation for the next five years while embracing long term planning for the next 50 to 100 years. We are mindful and resolute that FUM has a critical role to play in contributing towards a vibrant and transformed commercialized agriculture sector.

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