Minister Nankhumwa says govt on top of Malawi food security situation

The Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Regional Vulnerability  Assessment and Analysis Program (RVAA) recently released its 2019 assessment results for Malawi, which say over 1.1 million Malawians will face hunger between October 2019 and March 2020, with over 676, 600 people already affected by food shortage.

Minister of Agriculture, Nnakhumwa: I wish to inform Malawians that no soul will be lost as a result of the projected food situation

Although the picture looks grim, government says it is on top of the situation.

In an interview with Nyasa Times, Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, Kondwani Nankhumwa said government is aware of the food security situation in the country, and as assessed by SADC and that the situation is not as acute as last year when 3.3 million were under the threat of hunger.

The RVVA Program report shows that situation in Malawi has been rated under Integrated Phase Classification, which is considered as phase 3 or crisis level. It says this is especially prevalent in the districts of Balaka, Neno and Nsanje.

By region the report says about 600, 000 people will be food insecure in the southern region; 390,000 people in the central region whereas 140,000 people will be food insecure in the northern region.

The report says seven percent of the population in the country will be food insecure by March 2020,  and the situation may lead to cases of malnutrition particularly in the districts of Balaka, Nkata Bay, Karonga  and Mchinji.

“As I recently said during a briefing to  the nation, this situation is mainly as a result of acts of God such as floods and dry spells in many parts of the country due to climate change as well as armyworm attacks on crops in selected areas.

“However, government has a comprehensive plan to deal with the food security situation within the short, medium to long term. I wish to inform Malawians that no soul will be lost as a result of the projected food situation,” said Nankhumwa.

He said that through ADMARC and the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA), government has already started procurement of maize so that the staple is available to the people throughout the year.

Nankhumwa noted that every year, government also conducts survey to assess the food security and agriculture productivity status in this country to help its planning and policy making processes.

He said in as much as the situation has drifted in the positive territory to 3,391, 924 metric tons in 2019 from 2, 697, 959 metric tons in the 2017/2018 season representing a 24 percent improvement, government would still buy maize from smallholder and commercial farmers through ADMARC (through a commercial loan amounting to K2.5 billion) and NFRA to ensure that the food security situation at household level is well taken care of at least in the short term.

“Maize being the staple food for most Malawians, it has compelled government to take extra measures that will ensure that the domestic grain is procured to meet the required stocks for the country’s preparedness in case of any eventualities,” said Nankhumwa.

Government has since directed ADMARC to increase the buying price of maize from K150 to K180 per kg. For sellers who would sell their maize to NFRA and actually deliver directly to ADMARC depots, the price is pegged at K200 per kg.

This was a deliberate move to ensure that the ‘maize economics’ whilst meant to ensure food security at household level in the short term, should also help to adequately empower smallholder farmers through a trickle down economic effect, according to the youthful minister.

The minister also disclosed that government has already started donating maize to the most vulnerable households to ensure that they are food secure.

He disclosed that he has had positive interfaces with agriculture NGOs, including CISANET Malawi, to discuss the food situation in the country, and how it can be managed.

“The impression I got from these meetings is that the food situation is under control. Through our existing expertise, we shall be able of identify the most vulnerable households and communities and assist them promptly. I would like to assure the country that we have enough maize stock for every Malawian and that the country is food secure.

“I will continue to monitor the procurement process and provide regular updates to ensure that we secure the minimum requirement for national food security for both ADMARC and the Strategic Grain Reserves,” reiterated Nankhumwa, who is also Leader of the House in Malawi Parliament.

Within the medium term, the minister hinted on government resuscitating cooperative agriculture and the food production value chain such as the one in the greenbelt initiative.

“Recently, I was in Ntakataka in Dedza to officially commission an irrigation scheme, which underlined government’s commitment in revamping the Ministry of Agriculture; to make it more responsive and to ensure that there is food security at household and national level. This is the motivation of this government under the empowering vision and able stewardship of His Excellency President Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika to turn this country into a predominantly productive and exporting economy,” said Nankhumwa.

In the long term, the minister said government would be looking at investing in commercial agriculture through Public Private Partnerships (PPP) and other huge investment frameworks, as well as taking measures to ensure that there is little overreliance on maize; that people are also able to rely on other crops for consumption.

Concluded  Nankhumwa: “There ought to be a comprehensive and systematic mindset change in the long-run to reeducate the people about over-reliance on maize for food. Malawians must now begin to understand that there is also life after maize. Other crops also have equal nutritional value, or even better than maize. It is all about mindset change, which I am optimistic can happen.”

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