America pumps K7.7 billion into Malawi’s fight against hunger

Galvanised by global hunger trends, one of Malawi’s largest development partner, The United States of America (USA) Government, through the US Agency for International Development (Usaid), has pumped in $9.5 million (about K7.7 billion) to the World Food Programme (WFP) towards efforts the country’s fight against hunger, which still ravaging the Southeast African nation.

The USA monetary support would go along way in providing emergency assistance to vulnerable households, support livelihoods of community members and strengthen capacity of national and local institutions to better address food security, disaster risk management and emergency responses in Malawi.

Usaid Malawi Mission Director Catie Lott said In a statement on Thursday, the US Government is honoured to partner with the Malawi Government and the WFP to support Malawians and refugees as they work to increase their food security and better manage seasonal shocks such as drought and flooding.

Said Lott: “Around the world, Usaid is committed to helping families and individuals produce and purchase reliable, quality food,”

Benoit Thiry grateful to the US Gov for the donation

, WFP Country Director in Malawi said the US Government continues to help in building the resilience of vulnerable communities in Malawi against climatic shocks and improve their food security.

“We are grateful to the US Government’s investment in breaking the cycle of hunger in Malawi,” Thiry said.

He said WFP will also use the contribution to provide cash and/or food transfers to 42,000 refugees hosted at Dzaleka Camp.

Thiry added that WFP would also use the contribution to strengthen capacity and transfer skills to national and local institutions involved in food security, nutrition, disaster risk management, and emergency response.

Usaid has been supporting WFP in Malawi since 2017, helping 382,000 food insecure smallholder farmers improve their productivity, food security, and resilience to shocks.

Farmers have built or maintained assets to improve their livelihoods, including community gardens and small-scale irrigation farming, creating healthier natural environments, reducing risks and impacts of shocks, and strengthening resilience to natural disasters.

‘COVID-19 as a springboard’

The UN World Food Programme’s live Hunger Map aggregates 957 million people across 93 countries who do not have enough to eat, and the Global Humanitarian Outlook projects 239 million people in need of life-saving humanitarian action and protection this year.

Of the factors driving global hunger, climate is the one that can best be predicted using science – and the technical abilities to monitor and forecast weather-related hazards have never been as good as today – there is no ethically justified reason to keep treating climate disasters as inevitable and ‘natural’ surprises.

As countries are re-grouping to think about ways in which the COVID-19 crisis can be used as a springboard to build more resilient societies, climate foresight and preventive planning need to be part of the equation.

Many countries, including Malawi have started to recognise the global climate emergency as a humanitarian issue. Climate change fuels conflict and economic risks, while compounding the effects of disease outbreaks.

Like COVID-19, it is highly globalised and dynamic, and cannot be contained by one country, one institution or one academic discipline.

In Malawi, the main harvest of the 2020/21 agricultural season began in April 2021 and is expected to last through June.

Typically, southern areas start harvesting earliest, in April, while northern areas start harvesting in May and in most districts in the southern and central regions have now started harvesting their crop, improving household access to maize. In northern areas, harvesting activities have not started in earnest, though households have access to green harvests.

According to first round production estimates by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MoAFS), Malawi is expected to realize above-average production of most food crops in the 2020/21 season.

Production of maize—the Malawian main staple—is estimated at 4.4 million metric tons.

This is 42 percent above the five-year average and 29 percent above against an estimated total national requirement of 3.4 million metric tons.

This above-average production is attributed to average to above-average rainfall and increased access to seed and fertilisers through the government-run Affordable Inputs Program (AIP).

Production is also expected to be higher than last year, marking a second consecutive above-average production year.

Despite average to above-average cumulative seasonal rainfall in most areas, some southern and central areas experienced localised dry spells in January and February 2021.

‘Seasonal hunger trends’

This has reportedly affected crop development in parts of the southern Nsanje and Chikwawa districts in the Lower Shire Livelihood zone and smaller parts of the southern Balaka, Neno, and Thyolo districts and the central Kasungu district.

Although crop estimates suggests that worst-affected Nsanje and Chikwawa districts are expected to realise near average production of rainfed maize (which is harvested in the main season) at the district level, households in the areas impacted by dry spells—mostly middle upland areas of Nsanje and Chikwawa where the climate is typically dryer—are likely to harvest lower amounts.

Overall, while FEWS NET previously expected that the national-level first round production estimate for maize (4.4 million metric tons) would be revised downward due to the dry spells, increased production in other areas has likely compensated for the losses.

Tobacco auction floors across the country (Kanengo and Chinkhoma Floors in central Malawi, Limbe Floors in southern Malawi, and Mzuzu Floors in northern Malawi) are opening in phases between April 20 and May 4, 2021.

According to estimates from the Tobacco Commission (TC), Malawi is expected to produce around 122 million MT of tobacco in the 2020/21 season against an estimated buyer demand of 132 million MT. Estimates for 2020/21 production are 15 percent below last year and 25 percent below the five-year average.

Lower production this year is likely at least partially attributable to the fact that, according to media reports, some farmers were unable to grow tobacco this year due to insufficient income from production in the previous season.

The farmers likely grew alternative crops, for example; maize and soya, but these crops do not earn as much income.

Prices of maize grain decreased from February to March 2021, in line with typical seasonal trends before the harvest.

The price decreases are largely attributable to increasing market supply as traders released old stocks in anticipation of the coming harvest.

In addition, decreasing market demand as households begin consuming own-produced from the new harvest likely contributed to declining prices.

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