Minister of Agriculture and Water Development Allan Chiyembekeza has assured the nation that no one will die of hunger this year following a report by Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (Mvac) which estimates that 2.8 million Malawians—about 20 percent of the country’s population—face starvation.
According to Chiyembekeza, government will next week release final figures which partly confirm Malawians have only harvested nearly 70 percent of last year’s maize yield.
“So far, the final crop estimates show there will be a 30.2 percent decline in maize production, which is higher than the 29.9 percent declared before,” Chiyembekeza said on Thursday when he launched a national manure and fodder preservation campaign in Mzimba.
“I urge Malawians not to despair because of the maize deficit. There are many other crops that have done well despite the floods and lengthy dry spells which hit the country,” said the minister.
He did not hint at the projections of other key crops, but the April estimates showed a 13.6 percent reduction in rice production, 11.9 percent reduction in millet, 5.9 percent reduction in cassava and sorghum at 4.4 percent reduction.
In April, the minister announced a 27.7 percent shortfall in this year’s harvest—projecting the country would yield 2 898 123 metric tonnes of maize in the 2014-15 term, down from last year’s 3 978 123 metric tonnes.
The figures sum up a growing season battered by unprecedented floods in 15 districts and prolonged dry spells elsewhere.
The revised official figures remain lower than the 40 percent shortfall announced by the civil society organisation earlier this year.
The country needs at least three million tonnes of maize every year, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.
Speaking earlier in an interview, the ministry’s spokesperson Hamilton Chimala said the final estimates were still being analysed alongside those produced by the National Statistics Office (NSO).
Apart from allocating funds for importing maize, government’s coping measures include a K401 million cassava and sweet potato cropping initiative being bankrolled by the World Bank.
Mzimba North MP Agnes Nyalonje asked the minister to empower farming families with inputs for irrigation agriculture to avert the worsening disaster.
The manure-making programme, which was launched in Bwengu Extension Planning Area where 30 out of 100 families are expected to run out of maize by September, was praised as one of the smart ways to beat effects of climate change, including erratic rainfall. n