Thursday, July 16, 2009

More on the farming success of Malawi

Malawi is one of the good news countries in Africa in regards to food production. Thanks to fertilizer, seeds and irrigation Malawi is now a food exporter.

The government of Malawi conducts a subsidy program for farmers. The government helps with the costs of inputs to help increase farmers yields. The subsidy program takes up 15 percent of Malawi's national budget. Meanwhile, the percentage of those in poverty in the country has fallen to 40 percent from 52 percent.

From this Bloomberg story, writers Frank Jomo and Brian Latham give us more of the good news.

Once the victim of intermittent famines that left 40 percent of the population dependent on international aid just four years ago, Malawi has become a food exporter. Farmers credit a government program of subsidizing fertilizers for the turnaround.

“The world faces massive food shortages, but we have a lesson we can offer to the world,” President Bingu wa Mutharika, who was re-elected in May, told reporters this week. “Our subsidy program is a success and we want other countries to learn from us.”

Other African countries may now get the funds to follow Malawi: The Group of Eight nations on July 10 approved $20 billion in aid over three years to help poor farmers worldwide, mostly through cheaper access to fertilizers and seed.

Neighboring Tanzania began a fertilizer-subsidy program last December. Kenya had already announced plans for a subsidy system to turn it into a net food exporter by 2012, while Uganda increased agricultural spending by 47 percent in the budget announced on June 11.

“Before the subsidies came in during 2005, our crops were poor because we couldn’t afford fertilizer,” said Luckmore Banda, looking out over 5-foot-high corn stalks sprouting from every square inch of available land at his homestead outside Malawi’s commercial capital, Blantyre. “Now, things are on the up and up. Our production is rising and our income is rising.”

Banda, 62, says the subsidies helped lift his income to $5 a day from less than $1 four years ago. About 7.2 million small- scale farmers in a country of 14.3 million have received the subsidies over four years, Treasury Secretary Randson Mwadiwa said in an interview.

Malawi expects to produce an estimated 3.7 million metric tons of corn this year, up 36 percent from 2008 and exceeding the 2.4 million tons needed for self-sufficiency, Finance Minister Ken Kandodo Banda said in a July 3 interview.

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