August 11 2022
o, it is evidently clear that hunger remains perennial in Malawi and we are unable to do anything about it. The loose and working definition of hunger in this regard is the absence of the staple food: maize.
Every year, the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (Mvac) releases projections bearing the fact that hunger is looming and it will bite hard.
In 2020, 1.8 million were projected to be in the hunger trap. The figure rose further to 2.7 million with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Last year, the figure increased from a projected 1.5 million to 1.7 million.
And now, the Mvac as well as the Integrated Food Security Phase Classing (IPS) indicates that 3.8 million Malawians (about 20 percent of the population) are in the red line. Not so long ago, the World Food Programme (WFP) presented that about 33 percent of the population (5.4 million Malawians) face hunger.
Never mind, this is a gloomy picture of a country that reputes itself to be an agro-based economy! Without being dramatic about it this is how we Malawians love jokes.
If it were not so, we could have been a little more serious.
What is most baffling is that every year, soon after harvest, we are assured of a bumper yield by the powers that be. Only this year, President Lazarus Chakwera has allayed hunger fears, saying the country has enough maize in stock.
To show that the country has enough grain, Chakwera went down to the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) Strategic Grain Reserves (SGR) to let the nation see the stacks and stacks of the grain on the ready to flood the market. This is a kind of trick that has been pulled by previous regimes every time independent assessors start talking about scarcity.
Even Agriculture Minister Lobin Lowe has stood on high ground that the country has enough food for everyone. There will be no empty stomachs.
Further, one agriculture ministry said the other day there is enough maize in the country in the hands of traders and government bodies like Admarc.
This is where the jokes turn quite hilarious because, as chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture Sameer Suleman indicates, that maize is collateral Admarc used to get loans from commercial banks. It is a maze. What happens when Admarc fails to repay the loans?
It is a given fact that the scarcity of maize brings with it pressures on the economy, with the food basket contributing a deal on the inflation.
The question that bogs the mind is that: Why do politicians lie about the food situation? Why do they always want to keep the populace hungry? Who really benefits from the camality?
For that matter, why do politicians hold on to programmes that make little or no economic sense at all? It is not normal that we are failing to find a solution to the tragedy of pumping in billions in the Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP) to assist the poor who will end up being in need of food aid in times like these.
It is clear that such programmes do not benefit the vulnerable because a lot more could be done to grow maize on a large, commercial plate and flood the market. If you benefit from the transportation, distribution and sell of the inputs you would never mind how many will go hungry again.
That is our joke about food.