A differentiated approach of development programmes that put the well-being of the population at the centre of decisions can reverse the cyclic occurrence of hunger and malnutrition, development partners have observed.
Chairperson of the Donor Committee on Agriculture and Food Security (DCAFS) Nikolas Bosscher stated that the donor community believes that it is possible to achieve both food and nutrition security as well as agricultural and economic growth but this requires a differentiated approach.
He made the remarks at a public dialogue meeting organized by the Civil Society Agriculture Network (CISANET) with financial support from Self Help Africa, State of the Union (SOTU) and Irish Aid. The meeting was aimed at providing options on how the hunger situation can be dealt with.
“Resource poor and subsistence farmers should have access to withstand shocks and climate change. This means that development programmes should stop working in silos and that much more progress should be made in linking up these programmes to improve their overall impact,” said Bosscher.
His sentiments come against the background of massive investment in the agriculture sector estimated at about US$500 million. But not withstanding these investments, the recurrent high number of people in need of humanitarian assistance is estimated at about 3 million.
“We did not succeed to build a sustainable environment in which availability, accessibility and adequacy of food is sufficient to cover the food and nutrition requirements of all Malawians,” said Bosscher.
He added: “The cost of this failure is high. The monetary cost of this year’s humanitarian assistance is estimated at US$146 million. Worse than the monetary cost is, of course, the humanitarian cost. People are deprived from their ability to develop, to live free from hunger and obtain a standard of living that is adequate for the health and wellbeing of themselves and their family. In addition the cyclic humanitarian disasters hamper the economic progress of the country.”
According to the ‘Cost of Hunger in Malawi’ study, the total annual cost associated with child undernutrition is estimated is estimated at US$597 million (K147 billion) or 10 percent of the GDP.
“Today, due to chronic undernutrition almost half of the children in Malawi are stunted. This leads to increased health risks, increased mortality cases, reduced school performance, and at a later stage to a reduced work performance,” said Bosscher who was a keynote speaker.
Bosscher called for collective efforts to reverse the recurring occurrence of hunger and malnutrition. His sentiments were echoed by Dr. Geoffrey Ching’oma, Director of Crops from the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Water Development.
Ching’oma said: “We are not well coordinated. We are doing things individually too much. But we are the drivers of change. I believe as a nation we can do better. Together we can fix the engine that is broken down.”
During the public dialogue meeting, one of the panelists, Henry Kachaje, president of Economic Association of Malawi (ECAMA) stressed that Malawi has never had surplus food for the past years at household level but it had managed to produce surplus maize.
Kachaje has urged Malawians to change their mindset and diversify on what constitute food saying maize is not the only food.
“Malawi has surplus maize and not surplus food. We have adopted a system of governance that is making Malawi poor by the day.”
CISANET Board chairperson Rex Chapota wondered why Malawi is going hunger amidst plenty of natural resources such as water.
“Some things have been done wrongly starting from policy, marketing etc. Where are we getting it wrong?” questioned Chapota.
Chairperson of the Agriculture committee in the National Assembly Felix Jumbe stated that what is critical is not the availability of the food in the granaries but the availability of the food components in the value chain of distribution.
Meanwhile, Aidan Fitzpatrick of the Irish Aid explained that it projected that maize production will decrease in sub Saharan Africa by 40% hence it is not smart or safe for Malawi to put maize as a centre.
“We need to break away from the mono crop culture. We need to start getting the diversity that can feed Malawi and drive Malawi forward.
Panelists also discussed investment in agriculture and how the Farm Input Subsidy Programme has performed in the recent past.
Contributing to the dialogue, Member of Parliament for Rumphi East, Kamlepo Kalua blamed lack of policy on FISP.
Kalua said it was difficult for FISP to tick in the absence of a policy.
Chapota said for Malawi to achieve food sufficiency there is needs to embrace use of farming equipment other than a hoe.
“I have always been saying this that we cannot progress with the use of hoe as our major farming tool, I want to see a hoe at a museum one day,” said Chapota.
The recent Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (MVAC) results have revealed that 20 percent of the population representing about 3 million people will be food insecure and will not meet their food requirements from October, 2015 to March 2016 in 25 of the 28 districts in the country. The total humanitarian food required is estimated at 124,183 MT of maize with K18.6 billion.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :