By Penelope Paliani-Kamanga
Blantyre - Malawi has the highest food insecure population in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region in the 2018/19 season, with at least 3.3 million people facing hunger following a 28.4% decrease in maize production.
The 2018 Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (MVAC) report shows that Malawi, compared to other countries in the region, has the highest food insecure population.
Mozambique has 531,476 people who are food insecure, Zambia has 954,120 and Zimbabwe has 2.4 million people in need of food assistance.
MVAC representative Ethel Luhanga-Mwalughali said maize production had decreased due to unfavourable weather conditions and a reduction in hectarage due to price disincentives.
She said this has been the case over the past five years, as on average, maize production had decreased by 20.3% in the country.
“Dry spells in between December and mostly in the southern part of the country and some districts in the Central Region affected most key crops, including rice production which has also reduced from 121,079 tonnes to 112,313 tonnes, representing a 7.8% decrease,” she said.
She said flooding, late tailing-off of the rains and a fall armyworm infestation have also affected crop production in some areas.
The most affected are districts in the southern and central regions.
A 2018 MVAC report indicated that of all the eight agricultural development divisions (ADDs), only Karonga registered a 6.5% increase in maize production, while the rest had a deficit.
According to the report, maize production has decreased from 3,464,139 tonnes as per the 2016/17 Third Round Agricultural Production Estimates to 2,697,959 tonnes as per the 2017/18 third round estimates.
The affected population will require 138,488 tonnes of maize relief worth K23.5 million (US$32,000), the report stated.
Machinga ADD has the highest deficit at 54%, Blantyre (45%), Kasungu (32.7%), Lilongwe (24.8%), Salima (23.1%), Shire Valley (11.5%) and Mzuzu (4.5%).
But an agricultural watchdog, Civil Society Agriculture Network (CisaNet), has said the glorified Farm Input Subsidy Programme (FISP), which has been widely politicised, has failed to address the problem and has asked the government to find a permanent solution to addressing chronic food insecurity.
CisaNet programmes director, Alfred Kambwiri, urged the government to find a permanent solution to addressing chronic food insecurity in the country’s southern region.
He said FISP has failed to address food insecurity, as it benefits the same people who are also targeted with relief food items.
“It has been a trend for years that most of the food insecure are from the southern region. To begin with, the report needs to clearly outline the amount of food the country has. In this case, they should be able to outline how much Admarc and NFRA have in their depots as well as private traders.
“It is not that we don’t have food as a country. It’s just that in lean months, there will be some households that will struggle. But that does not mean we should panic to the extent of buying food from outside the country,” he said.
NFRA has since contracted the Auction Holdings Commodities Exchange to buy and deliver 32,000 tonnes of maize to its storage facilities.