LILONGWE (MalawiTalk) — Leader of Opposition Mr Kondwani Nankhumwa has said while Malawi will have a bumper yield due to the good rains that many parts of the country received, there will be pockets of hunger and has asked government comprehensive measures to avoid the looming hunger situation.
Minister of Agriculture Mr Lobin Lowe recently presented crop inspection report to President Dr Lazarus Chakwera has projected a bumper yield, lending credence to the Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP).
A video documentary depicting the status of crops across the country’s eight agriculture development divisions (ADDs), namely Karonga, Mzuzu, Kasungu, Lilongwe, Salima, Machinga, Blantyre and the Shire Valley, indicates that most farming fields have good crops.
But Nankhumwa, the estranged former Democratic Progressive Party vice-president (South) , said government should provide safety nets because there will be some farmers who will harvest less or not at all.
Said Nankhumwa in speech captured by the Parliament’s Hansard: “I am aware that this country is currently basking in the glow that this year, we will have a bumper yield due to the good rains that many parts of the country received. This is also the narrative that the government is promoting because it wants to link it to the ill-fated Affordable Input Programme (AIP).
“However, the food security situation on the ground may not be as rosy as the government is trying to paint. As much as there will be an improvement in yields compared to last year, dry spells and the spread of Fall Army Worms have reportedly destroyed more than 860,000 hectares of maize crop in some parts of the country, particularly the eastern and southern regions of the country.”
Nankhumwa added: “In fact, the World Bank and IMF’s food security projections for this country have taken cognizance of this reality, and are much lower than what the government is throwing at us.”
He remidned President Chakwera that the food security situation in the country is cited as among the priority areas for the Tonse Alliance administration just as is the management of HIV/AIDS and attendant nutrition disorders.
Said Nankhumwa: “It is in the same vein that I wish to urge the government not to bury its head in the sand but to come up with workable and comprehensive measures to avoid the looming hunger situation in the regions that I have mentioned.”
He said the government may consider putting in place “social protection measures” such as cash transfers and honoraria to help poor people, including the elderly, to respond to the effects of poverty so that they can also meaningfully contribute to the development of the country.
Nankhumwa also cautioned the Tonse Alliance administrationagainst rushed issuance of maize export certificates to traders to avoid creating a gap in maize supply, which would significantly raise the price of the staple on the local market during the lean period.
President Chakwera pointed out when he received crop inspection tour report that Malawians must be the judges on whether AIP has served them better, saying: “When it comes to measuring success of the programme, what matters is not the opinion of politicians, opinion of the Ministry of Agriculture, opinion of foreigners, political parties or the opinion of the President. When it comes to the success of this programme, what matters is the opinion of the farmer.”
AIP was rolled out as a successor to the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp) implemented by the previous DPP)administration since 2006. Unlike Fisp which targeted an average one million beneficiaries at a cost of about K35 billion, AIP targeted four times the number. It also used the national identity cards.