When the 49 percent devaluation of the kwacha was announced, we heard that a special fund had been established to pay the poor who wanted to work for food.
Thereafter, we heard that 1.6 million Malawians were in dire need of food.
Today, we learn from the media that the President, ministers and party officials are making rounds, distributing free food to the needy.
But what has become of the â€˜work for foodâ€™ or is it â€˜food for workâ€™ programme? These two terms baffle me.
If able-bodied and youthful families are receiving maize without giving anything in return, but a â€˜thank youâ€™, then this is regrettable.
It goes against the advice of an African philosopher Dr James K.E. Aggrey who urged fellow Africans to â€œmake use of what you have to get what you wantâ€.
A family that does not have money to buy food, but has hoes and axes should never be given free food. No, not if its members are all in good health.
Free food should only be given to the old and ailing. This may sound ungenerous, but wait a minute!
In a family, the father and the mother may have contradictory ideas on how to bring up their only child.
The father may tell the child to go to school whether it rains or not. But the mother may say: â€œTom is not a child of slaves, why should he be subjected to hardship?â€
The child may think his mother loves him more than the father. But if he stays away from school on such trivial issues, he may not complete his education.
Having failed to complete school his future will be miserable. The boy may suffer because the parents failed to agree on the best method of preparing him for the future.
With the advent of famine, some political party activists may see it as an opportunity to woo voters by giving people food without asking for something in return.
In the final analysis, free food hurts the recipients. They believe they can never starve even if they waste their harvest because government is there to feed them.
But one day neither government nor God will rescue us from disaster if we do not take care of our resources.
Everyone who is not a child has ever prayed to be saved from danger, but that prayer was never answered.
A Nobel prize winner in economics Professor Amartya Sen of India said the best way to save people during famine is not to give them free food, but money to buy food. Let them spend it on their priorities.
Often in a country where there is famine, some families have more food than they need and would gladly sell some of it.
Dishing out free food destroys the market for farmers who have surplus stocks.
The money must be given only to those who come forward to work on rural projects such as irrigation schemes and feeder roads.
In this way, the recipient will contribute to development. Free food distribution encourages laziness.
Incidentally, on TV we are being shown lush irrigation gardens in the very districts that are now said to be suffering from famine, what has become of these schemes?
If they are indeed capable of producing maize in three months, how much have they contributed to the mitigation of famine this year?
I have often stated the fact that we Malawians are not organised for success. The resources are there, but we do not know what to do with them.
If people who are given free food are instead given ganyu (piece work) they will spend their money on the food from silos, thereby enabling the National Food Reserve Agency to accumulate a fund for restocking the silos.
The rainy season is around the corner. Nay, it has already arrived that people should be excused from attending political rallies every week. Hard work in the fields as Kamuzu used to say, is what will drive the wolf away from the thresholds of peopleâ€™s houses.
Those who claim to be defenders of the voiceless should be urging the people to take up their hoes and work in the field. A bumper harvest at the end of the rainy season will bring inflation down.
It is not mere words or demonstrations.