Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Dr. George Chaponda has announced that government has initiated short, medium and long term measures to reverse the loaming food security crisis in the country.
Chaponda told journalists in Lilongwe on Friday that measures are being taken to offset the current food gap and to avoid the recurrence of similar crises in the future.
This comes as Malawi is currently facing a significant drop of crop production attributed mainly to weather induced factors like late commencement of planting rains, prolonged dry spells and hot weather not suitable for crop production.
Production of maize, the country’s staple food has registered a decline from 2, 776, 277 metric tons in 2014/2015 to about 2, 431, 313 metric tons in 2015/2016 growing season representing a 12.4 percent decline.
In its short term measures adopted; government intends to make sure that over extra 1.65 million metric tones of white maize is made available in the country.
“The short term measures are immediate in nature that will commence in the 2015/2016 fiscal year through to 2016/2017 financial year. They mostly focus on irrigation to utilize both existing and new irrigation schemes under the management of both smallholder and commercial farmers for maize production,” said Chaponda.
Chaponda explained that this will be achieved by engaging commercial and other emerging farmers to utilize their irrigation facilities or use the ones belonging to smallholder farmers that could result in the realization of about 25, 000 metric tons of maize on 4,500 hectares of land to approximately cost K6.8 billion.
Also, by initiating campaigns for stallholder farmers to seriously engage in conventional irrigation farming on an area of about 35, 000 hectares to supplement the current rain fed crop which could result in the production of around 140, 000 metric tons which is meant to be for smallholder farmers own consumption.
He added that government also intends to distribute and install motorized pumps to increase the area under irrigation by 210 hectares to produce around 840 metric tons at an expected cost of K700 million.
According to the minister, plans are in play to import about 1 million metric tones of white maize from African regions and overseas of which part of it will be used for humanitarian relief purposes.
He said government will procure maize through the Agricultural Development Marketing Corporation (Admarc) and the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) both locally and to as far as Mexico and Ukraine.
“On this measure, the ministry has recommended to government to provide adequate financial resources to enable Admarc and NFRA commence maize purchases earlier than they normally do.
In fact, Admarc has already started buying the grain from our smallholder farmer. The plan is to stock Admarc and NFRA with about 250, 000 metric tons each.
In its medium term plans spanning 2016 to 2020, at a cost of MK11.4 billion, government intends to procure, distribute and install 27 solar pumps across the country where high potential ground water of yields between 5 to 15 liters exists. All in all, an area of 27 hectares of land is being targeted and 1, 350 farming families are expected to benefit.
According to Chaponda, Malawi only irrigates a quarter of potential irrigable land of 408, 000 hectares due to factors related to capital cost investment. Out of this background, he said his ministry is engaging relevant institutions such as the Treasury to come up with an innovative financing mechanism to support irrigation investment in the country.
“It is my conviction that if we developed 75 percent of this irrigable land and deployed it to food production, growing twice a year, we should be able to reverse the situation and come back to our self-food sufficiency status,” said he.
However, “ Going forward with our long term plans, the ministry will be guided by the National Agricultural Policy (NAP) whose main focus is to sustainably transform the sector with a view to attain significant growth and expand incomes of the farming communities and at the same time improve food and nutrition security for our communities.
“The ministry is also reviewing its investment framework/plan known as the Agriculture Sector Wide Approach (ASWAp) to reflect the aspiration of the NAP so that all investments in the sector are properly guided and eventually break the cycle of food and income insecurity at both household and national levels,” said Chaponda.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :