In agriculture, what should be Malawiâ€™s approach?
Let us consider a statement chairperson of the Peopleâ€™s Republic of China, Hu Yaobang, made at the 12th National Congress of the Communist Party in September 1982.
Yaobang said: â€œAgriculture is the foundation of the national economy, and provided it grows, we can handle the other problems more easily.â€
At present, both labour productivity and the percentage of marketable products are low in agriculture, our capacity for resisting natural calamities is still limited and in particular, the contradiction between the huge population and the insufficiency of arable land is becoming more acute.
From now, while firmly controlling the population growth, protecting all agricultural resources and maintaining the ecological balance, we must do better in agricultural capital construction, improving the condition for agricultural production, practice scientific farming, wrest greater yields of grain and cash crops from limited acreage and secure the all-around development of forestry, animal husbandry sideline occupation and fishery to meet the needs of individual expansion and of high living standards for people.
When I read this statement in a book People and Environment edited by Frances Slater and published by Collins Educational of Great Britain, I asked myself why our political parties with the help of the intelligentsia not draft such manifestoes.
The nation must be given a sense of direction. Without clear objectives, success becomes a mirage. If you do not know where you want to go, any path will take you there.
I believe neither the kind of planning documents which were issued by communist countries under the then Soviet Union nor in the laissez faire type advocated by those who say the less the government the better.
Rather I see merit in indicative plans that post war French governments used to issue.
We must operate with objectives: For instance, how many irrigation schemes should we complete by 2017; how many contraceptives should we issue annually to regulate population growth; how many jobs should we create?
If we proceed by objectives that are attainable at the end of five years, we can then take stock to see how far we have gone.
In terms of food security, we should be clear: Are we talking of growing only maize or other crops such as millet, sorghum, rice, cassava and potatoes as well?
To attain food security, we must introduce diversification not only on production, but also consumption.
Traditionally, some districts have eaten kondowole thick porridge made from cassava and kambala thick porridge from millet.
Why can we not make something like Hungarian goulash out of our sweet potatoes?
In our plan for food self-sufficiency, we must try to persuade people to accept other types of diet.
When we talk of food security, the question of population growth demands attention. How many kilogrammes of staple food does an individual consume?
In 2010, The Nation published population breakdowns in Malawi showing numbers by region, district, sex, etc.
The statistics ought to have indicated density per district as well. This would have highlighted the kind of pressures people meet there.
The population table showed Lilongwe district to have the highest population at 1 230 834 which is only slightly below that of the whole Northern Region at 1 708 930.
A social survey both in overpopulated and under populated districts would be necessary to frame population policies.
Our industrial policy must discourage rural depopulation by establishing industries as alternative means of livelihood to agriculture. Who is to ensure that a definite policy is in position?
Multiparty governments come and go and so far they have not displayed longterm policies.