Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Focus on Sunday with Dumisani: Malawi not able to feed its people again? Published for a short-lived Maravipost column on September 27, 2015

Who can ever forget how Malawi once "fed its own people" and made headlines for its agricultural success stories and being able to produce enough maize for people to eat and export?

We also heard how the late President Bingu wa Mutharika "dreamed in color" and saw a Greenbelt Irrigation scheme to utilize Malawi's water bodies so the "war on hunger had been won".

It did not make sense for a country blessed with a lot of water to only rely on rain-fed agriculture and when rains fail people starve.

This could have been the inspiration behind the praise song 'Mose wa lero' by Phungu Joseph Nkasa in tribute to Mutharika for his "vision and agricutlural policies which were seen as strengthening the country's food security through the fertilizer subsidy programme.

Well in the song Nkasa told us Malawians that Mutharika was like the biblical Moses delivering the Israelites from bondage in Egypt hence him delivering us as Malawians from hunger and eating madeya (maize husks).

Not only did we hear about Mutharika's successful fight against hunger in music....songs of praise were also heard afar including from the director of the New York–based Earth Institute at Columbia University, Jeffrey Sachs.

As recent as 2012, Sachs reminded us how in his final two years "Mutharika had actually engineered an agriculture-led boom in Malawi, one that pointed a way for Africa to overcome its chronic hunger, food insecurity, and periodic extreme famines." 

He also credited the late president for standing “bravely against the arrogance of an ill-informed foreign aid community back in 2005.”

According to Sachs writing in an op-ed in the New York Times, the positive legacy and success story of the Mutharika name held a key for "Africa’s future development and escape from poverty.”

Around the time government exported grain to Lesotho and Swaziland and who can forget the 400,000 tonnes of maize to Zimbabwe?

AFP in 2007 reported Malawi being "swamped with surplus maize from two bumper harvests" and in 2008 Malawi was in the news again when it donated to drought-hit Lesotho and Swaziland.

But that seems like a long lost and now colourless dream as Malawi is once again facing a food crisis following floods and other forces of nature and not forgetting the political mess that happened back then.

Fast forward eight years later and no major irrigation project is in sight.
Bingu's brother President Peter Mutharika has since appealed for international help to cope with an expected food shortage that could affect 17 percent of the country’s population in coming months.

In his national address on the food situation Mutharika said people in 25 of the country’s 28 districts are at risk of hunger.

"That is over two million people not being able to meet their annual food requirement and some $150 million being needed to attend to those in need of food assistance."

There has been so much tension with this food crisis that many Malawians on social media and on the streets took government to task for allegedly traveling with a large delegation to the United Nations General Assembly.

But why is Malawi facing its worst food crisis in a decade...what went wrong?
Archbishop of the Catholic Church Thomas Msusa during a memorial mass for late Mutharika in May seemed to have a clue.

He hailed Mutharika for "eradicating hunger in the country during his tenure in office through the Farm Input Subsidy Program(FISP)" but went further saying "let’s borrow a leaf from Israel which feeds Europe with fruits harvested from irrigation farming of which its water is taken from over 100 Kilometers away what about us, a country which was blessed with vast bodies of water."

It's mind boggling that a country where agriculture is the backbone of the economy and is home to Africa’s third-largest freshwater lake called Lake Malawi, less than three percent of the land is irrigated.

Could it be that more political will is needed at the highest level followed by reviving agriculture and irrigation to ensure food security?

51 years after Independence should Malawi seriously be relying on donors to give citizens maize the staple food or holding more prayers to ask God for rains when they fail because of man destroying the earth?

Climate change, deforestion, silation and so many things are also affecting the environment so where there is a political will there must be a way to ensure people have food on the table.

Even biblically in Genesis 41 during the seven years of plenty the land produced abundant crops, all of which Joseph collected and stored in the cities.

In each city he stored the food from the fields around it and ended up having so much grain and when the seven years of famine began there was food throughout Egypt. 

When it got worse and spread, Joseph "opened all the storehouses and sold grain to the Egyptians" so people from all over the world bought grain from him.

Food can be multiplied by proper planning and irrigation using rain or water harvesting methods on top of the rivers and Lake Malawi we have.

Do our governments plan for such problems or has fire fighting management been the order of the day for many years because there is no good reason for us Malawians to starve when there is plenty of water in the country.

Should one have to walk on water or air as a certain Prophet seemed to do to realize that Malawi can use its rivers and wind to irrigate and produce energy?

Took this picture of children in Milange, Mozambique admiring visiting Malawian children

Tracing footsteps to lead me home

Greetings from the Warm Heart Africa, Malawi.

I'm a Malawian journalist who grew up in many countries including South Africa, Belgium, then West Germany, UK, Washington DC and New York in the US and I love New York.

Trying to come up with the production of my life and by compiling some of my 1000 poems into a book called ‘Tracing Footsteps’ to lead me Home with excellent photography.

I also plan to film award winning documentaries based on the history of this ancient land called Malawi and the mysteries of the Sirius star.

.....watch this space.