Many face hunger in Malawi despite bumper harvest: Nyasa Times

Many face hunger in Malawi despite bumper harvest: Nyasa Times
Agencies on 13 October, 2007 14:04:16

Despite a maize surplus, some half a million Malawians affected by drought may face food shortages before the 2008 harvest, a UN World Food Programme (WFP) official said yesterday.

“Some 520,000 people in four districts which were affected by drought are on close watch as they may face risk of food shortages before next year’s harvest,” said Matthews Nyirenda.

Nyirenda, citing a recent report by the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee, composed of donors and the government, said four of the country’s 28 drought-affected areas were being watched closely.

The districts include Karonga and Mzimba in the north, Ntchisi in the central region and Mulanje in the south.

The WFP would soon review the food security situation in the districts and, depending on the outcome of the assessment, would provide humanitarian assistance through targeted food distribution, Nyirenda said.

Despite being swamped with surplus maize from two bumper harvests, food security is still a pressing issue in the poor southern African nation.

Malawi, which annually needs 2mn tonnes to feed its 12mn people, is this year in surplus of about 1.1mn tonnes. About 400,000 tonnes have been exported to cash-strapped Zimbabwe.

The surplus has been due to subsidised fertiliser and prolonged periods of rainfall, agriculture experts say.

The country met its food needs for the first time in seven years in 2006 with a harvest of 2.2mn tonnes.

About 45% of Malawians live below the poverty line and on less than a dollar a day. – AFP

Posted by John Coyne, 15 November, 2007 02:50:19
As someone just back home from a three week trip to Mzuzu where I have a water and irrigation project, I have a slightly different take on the reasons for the impending maize shortage. When I visited in April I found that all of the areas where we work (around Mzuzu)had serious problems, either they had not got coupons for the subsidised fertilizer or when they got them the fertilizer was already gone. Either way the maize yield was low. The areas where this occurred should be known and corrective action taken. Instead when we bought some maize yesterday for the hungry villagers we work with, we found that maize at Admark has risen to 30Mkw per kilo, a full 50% over their buying price. The reason given: to prevent traders buying and making a profit. In an ideal world these villagers would be entitled to some of the much hyped maize surplus free from the Goverment and not have to rely on aid from external donors. I feel that the exports to Zimbabwe showed bad judgement at least and a more prudent course would be to wait for the 2008 crop first and in the intervening period feed your own hungry. Where I work the soil is depleted from using artificial fertilizer or none at all, so we work with people who are making and using compost and the process is very successful. Long term subsidies on fertilizer will prove unsustainable, so maybe now is a time for change in policy, towards an organic future.

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