"It's shameful that the UDF party wants to take us back to the dark days,"

Mr Gwanda Chakuamba (2003)

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Friday, May 30, 2008

After all is said, we are on the right food path

BY The Daily Times

12:38:46 - 30 May 2008

President Bingu wa Mutharika was addressing a high-level meeting in
Japan yesterday on sustaining food security in the world, 40 other
world leaders in attendance listened in awe.

Malawi, a small country that was hit by a savage drought only a few
years ago was now able to grow excess grain, enough to even sell and
donate to neighbouring countries.

President Mutharika espoused Malawi's success story of recent years,
especially after managing to feed itself and have some grain left over
for the first time in as many years.

Today, the world over is battling escalating food prices and scarcity
of food and our president told those at the Tokyo International
Conference on African Development (TICAD) that maybe the way to go
would be introducing subsidy programmes for farmers, especially the
small-holder farmer.

Interestingly, as Mutharika was delivering that speech, an opposition
legislator, Ishmael Chafukira was disparaging efforts made by Mutharika
to bring food security at the household level.

Chafukira said it was ridiculous for Mutharika to be giving small silos
to the farmers when they have no grain to put in the silos.

This year, our crop estimate is that we will have a surplus of 500,000 down from over a million the previous year.

Perhaps after all the dust has settled and we remove the politics from
the scenario, a thorough post-mortem of this year's harvest will reveal
that we could have done much, much better and in Japan, President
Mutharika would have even boasted of bigger margins of a surplus

Granted, we were unlucky that the rains in some parts of the country we incessant, washing away crops and gardens.

Our biggest challenge, though, that has prevented Malawi from achieving universal food security has been our own selves.

The same subsidy programme that President Mutharika touted its successes almost became our undoing.

When greed came into the picture and the distribution of subsidized
fertiliser coupons was marred by administrative chaos, the benefits
were almost wiped out.

When the subsidy programme was first mooted, the noble idea was to come
to the aid of the smallholder farmer unable to buy the commodity at
expensive market prices.

Today, even in the face of the projected food surplus, there are many
pockets were hunger is stalking the people and where a bag of maize is
selling way beyond affordable prices.

We do not share the pessimism of Ishmael Chafukira because we believe
that the silos being distributed to the villagers are a vital component
in our quest to achieve food security.

Rather, we share the vision of President Mutharika that once every gain
is properly stored, when wastage is reduced, then can Malawi still be a
success story.

Of course, this year we got many things wrong in the distribution of
subsidy fertiliser coupons, but from that experience, we can only learn
and correct what we did not do right last time.

Next year, we look forward to our president addressing an international
conference, telling all of Malawi's success story in attaining food

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