Firebrand human rights watchdog – the Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives (CDEDI) – has written the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament (PAC), requesting a probe into how Malawi is benefitting from the tea, tang and macadamia sectors.
The organization alleges that unlike tobacco and other exportable crops, the markets for tea, tang and macadamia are shrouded in secrecy.
Malawi is the second largest producer of tea in Africa after Kenya.
In Malawi, tea, tang and macadamia are grown in Thyolo, Mulanje and Nkhata-Bay, but CDEDI argues that their combined contribution to the country’s Growth Domestic Product (GDP) remains obscure.
The organization’s Executive Director Sylvester Namiwa addressed journalists in Lilongwe on Tuesday where he claimed that their consultative meetings with relevant authorities showed that the sector is not benefitting Malawians whose land was “grabbed from the natives.”
“It is important to indicate right at the onset that in the past, these estates used to provide a direct source of employment to the locals in the said districts, but today very few people are employed in the plantations, since some of the estates have resorted to using advanced technologies, which have replaced manual labour, thereby pushing thousands of the local labourers out of employment.
“Some estates have completely abandoned the tea production, and have opted for poultry production, while others are replacing tea production with macadamia nuts, in a desperate attempt to still cling to the land,” said Namiwa.
The CDEDI boss, who was flanked by senior officials from the organization, added that there is excessive use of chemicals in these estates, a situation that poses a serious threat to the safety of the locals and the ecosystem.
In the letter to PAC Chairperson Shadreck Namalomba, Namiwa alleges that players in the tea industry have neglected their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) obligations, as evidenced by their failure to maintain the roads in their own estates, and in some cases, water pipes that pass through villages, which now source their drinking water from unprotected sources.
He said this is why CDEDI was prompted to challenge the committee to intervene by summoning relevant stakeholders to give a detailed account as to why we should continue having these estates in Thyolo, Mulanje and Nkhata-Bay.
“In every tobacco growing season, Malawians are briefed on the number of tons sold against the prices for the crop, but people of Thyolo and Mulanje are and indeed many Malawians of good will are in the dark on the proceeds from the tea, coffee, tung and macadamia grown on their soils in Thyolo, Mulanje, and Nkhata-Bay district, for the export market. Your committee Hon, should also clear the mist these estate owners, who are allegedly not paying tax to the government of Malawi.
“Needless to say that the citizens in the said districts feel isolated and being less of human beings since they do not have land which is one of the most fundamental natural resources available to man for social and economic development in the agro-based Malawi economy. These landless people, therefore, have been disenfranchised from their right to economic activities, and most importantly, they have been denied one of the basic human rights for decades, the right to food!” reads the letter in part.
CDEDI also laments that the estates have exerted pressure on the limited social amenities such as hospitals and schools.
Additionally, there is a disease burden in the area, with Thyolo having an HIV and Aids prevalence rate of 11.8 percent, with life expectancy of 46.5 years.
In Mulanje, the HIV and Aids prevalence rate is at 20.6 percent, with life expectancy at 51.7 years for males and 47.98 years for females. Malawi’s life expectancy is currently at 63.5 years, while the HIV and Aids prevalence rate stands at 8.8 percent.
“It is our belief that the issues raised in this letter will be treated as a matter of urgency,” thus Namiwa concludes his letter.
Namalomba was in parliament when Nyasa Times was compiling this story.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :