Vice-President Saulos Chilima has said it is high time the country eradicated hunger and focused on effecting more socio-economic development in the country.
He made the remarks yesterday when he presided over the launch of the distribution of free fertiliser and hybrid maize seeds to about 100 000 vulnerable households and prisoners by Yara International and Bayer Malawi, traders in farm inputs.
Declared Chilima: “We need to end hunger in the country and do other things. 56 years have passed since we gained independence and we cannot just be talking about hunger. We need to eradicate hunger and move on as a country.”
He saluted the two organisations, saying the initiative is in line with the Tonse Alliance government’s vision to end hunger.
The Vice-President said government’s implementation of the Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP), which will benefit 4.2 million small-holder farming families in the country, is proof of the government’s determination to eradicate hunger.
Chilima observed that Yara International and Bayer Malawi’s provision of the free fertiliser and seeds will complement the government’s determination to assist needy people not targeted in the AIP.
He stressed on the need for Malawians to embark on crop diversification that should aim at securing exports.
Said the Vice-President: “It is, therefore, encouraging that this programme gives farmers an opportunity to test new crops, especially crops that can be exported. And more important is the fact that farmers will be trained in good agricultural practices.”
However, the Vice President—who is also Minister of Economic Planning and Development and Public Reforms— warned of punitive action for anyone who may abuse the pro-poor programmes, saying the inputs need to reach the intended vulnerable beneficiaries in order to lift them from the hunger traps.
Chilima, who personally drove to the event at Smallholder Farmers Fertiliser Revolving Fund of Malawi (SFFFRM) at Kanengo in Lilongwe, arrived seven minutes before the official 7am starting time of the function. He took pride at having an official event starting as early as 7am, saying work zeal and punctuality should be the way Malawians should be conducting business in order to progress.
On his part, Minister of Agriculture Lobin Lowe said his ministry will closely monitor the programme and ensure that it is not abused to improve lives of intended beneficiaries.
Yara International representative in Malawi, Ian Lockington, said the company decided to support farmers in the country and other parts of Africa to cushion them from Covid-19 effects.
He said in Malawi, the programme will provide 5 000 tonnes of fertiliser worth about K1.6 billion, with each farmer accessing one 50-kilogramme bag of fertiliser.
In his speech, Bayer Malawi chief executive officer Thyphod Chirwa said upon seeing that farmers were heavily affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, it decided to support some of the vulnerable farmers with 100 metric tonnes of maize seeds worth K150 million.
According this year’s food assessment and analysis by the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee, about 2.6 million people will be food insecure during the 2020/21 consumption year.
Of the affected population, about two million are from rural areas To support the affected population until the next harvesting season, government will need 56 744 metric tonnes of maize, which will cost about K14. 2 billion.