The past few weeks have come with good news to Malawians in regards to this year’s first round of crop estimates of food production across the country. Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development is forecasting that the country will increase its food production by 35.9% thereby expecting a substantial tonnage of surplus food. Factors abound as to why this has been the case.
Despite much of the focus dwelling on good rains, Malawians must not overlook the main undercurrents that have borne this amazing outcome. Under the Democratic Progressive Party, food security has always remained one of the pillars of government’s service delivery to Malawians. Since the party’s inception in 2005 under late Professor Bingu wa Mutharika, Food Security has become a timeless pillar of DPP’s philosophy.
It is under Bingu’s reign that Malawi reserved a huge tonnage of surplus of maize to a point of bailing out Haiti which at that time had just undergone a natural calamity. So too is with President Arthur Peter Mutharika, the DPP is still towing the line of Food Security as one of its anchor pillars. For Malawi, the past three years have been as devastating as it can get.
The accumulated disasters including El Nino effects, reared its ugly face in 2016 in which among other things; the country had a food deficit of 790,000 metric tonnes with 2.4 million farmers losing all their production and therefore 6.5 million declared food insecure which triggered the country’s largest humanitarian emergency in history. To turn the corner within months and register an increase in food production of 35 % is as amazing as it is baffling.
That alone is a feat that makes Malawi once again become the envy of the whole SADC region. To credit good rains only for such a feat is not an honest assessment of the situation. The DPP government has been responding to the previous years of low production with timely and good policies. Reforms in implemention of the Fertiliser Input Subsidy Program (FISP) though with some teething problems, is one right peg in the right hole.
Moving away from central distribution of inputs by government agencies to using the private sector fully and shedding off some beneficiaries of the program to concentrate on the most productive bracket of recipients is bearing fruits. The program in this season has now targetted mainly those that have the capability to utilize the inputs efficiently, thereby increasing production. As for those that were shed off from the program, government has enhanced its public works programs and social cash transfer to keep them afloat and subsequently lift them out of dire poverty.
However, it is worth noting also that during the same period, irrigation farming has been intensified with government putting more land under it including through DPPs flagship, Greenbelt Initiative (GBI) amongst the many other initiatives including those under private hands like the Nchalo Sugar Estates maize programme. Cumulatively, these are steps in right direction by government in making sure that in the foreseeable future Malawians will have perpetual food surplus both at household and national level and even enough for export within the region. It is therefore right and proper to give credit to Professor Mutharika and his government for not only standing steady in adversity but employing proper policies for long-term food security.