GROWING ISSUE: A landscape art project focusing on agriculture in the Overberg consists of two giant circles that have been planted with wheat and canola.
DURBAN - The AgriSciences faculty at Stellenbosch University (SU) is partnering with the Centre for Agricultural Transformation (M-CAT) in Malawi to help broaden Malawi’s economy.

Malawi is the most tobacco- dependent country in the world, despite being only the 13th largest producer of tobacco by weight in 2016, according to SU.

Exported tobacco accounted for 59% of the total value of the country’s exports in that year, when about 32% of the population worked in the tobacco industry.

The AgriSciences faculty has other partners in the project to diversify Malawi’s economy. They are the Malawi University of Science and Technology, the University of Minnesota and Land O’Lakes International Development, a global non-profit focusing on strengthening agricultural production to assist communities. SU will provide scientific and technological support to Malawi’s agricultural sector. “There are many changes worldwide in the consumption of tobacco products, which could in the long run significantly influence the Malawian economy, which is so specifically tied to tobacco.

“According to the M-CAT partners, the current global trends in tobacco markets, health issues, and environmental concerns have exerted significant pressure on the Malawian industry.

“This has prompted the government to diversify the economy and to try to reduce the country’s over- reliance on tobacco as the largest foreign exchange earner. New agricultural avenues and markets must therefore be identified,” the university said. Professor Danie Brink, dean of the AgriSciences faculty, said the project was a pre-emptive effort between a strong network of partners to help Malawian farmers identify lucrative alternatives that could be exported and earn the country much-needed foreign currency.

The Innovation Launch Lab in the faculty would assist with transfer of technology.