The maize crop looks gracefully healthy this cropping season. Perhaps the affordable input programme is showing us what it can achieve. If the rains persist to the end of the cropping season, many Malawians will have more than enough grain for food.
The promised “three meals per day” may indeed become reality this year. It takes planning and proper implementation of the plan for such promises to be realised. Many people erroneously think that promises of this nature will get fulfilled at the flipping of some magic switch.
Do not expect an individual to say, “Let there be three meals per day” and expect that the next moment every citizen will be having that number of meals each day. As already pointed out already, it takes planning on the part of those who govern but it also takes work on the part of the governed.
Even in the best possible scenario, some people will not manage to have three meals per day. Some will reel under some underlying factors they face through no fault of their own. For example, there will be people too frail, by reason of disease or age, to engage in the work that can bring them adequate harvests.
There will also be those who are so lazy that they cannot produce anything for themselves, much less for others. They will buy the cheap farm inputs and sell them straightaway to raise money to meet running expenses, some of them as mundane as beer purchases. The Bible says, “The sluggard buries his hand in the dish and will not even bring it back to his mouth” (Proverbs 19: 24). No amount of persuasion will put dinner on the table of a sluggard three times a day.
It is these people that will be saying, “You lied to us that we would be eating three times a day. Now you cannot fulfill your promise, go to hell!”
The Government needs to quickly put in place a mechanisms for buying the surplus maize and other crops the farmers will have grown. Admarc has to leap to its feet and for once play the role it was created to play, namely be the farmer’s companion.
Many people appear not to recognise the rural farmer as a key player in the economy. This truth dawned on me some years back when I was working for Blantyre Print and Packaging. We were the suppliers of packaging materials to Lever Brothers (which is today known as Unilever) and BAT, among other companies. The two were giants in manufacturing, the former manufacturing personal care and edible products and the latter cigarettes.
The two companies accounted for about two thirds of Blantyre Print’s turnover. I quickly learned that their business followed seasonal patterns. Between November and April, the earnings from Lever Brothers and BAT were at the lowest ebb. From the end of April sales would pick up significantly.
A major player came into the picture after April, and remained active until the beginning of November. That major player was the rural, farming community. After selling their produce to Admarc, the rural farmers had some disposable income which they used to buy Surf, Lifebouy, Covo, Ascot, Tom Tom, Life and other products made by Lever Brothers or BAT. They also bought many other items from shops.
It was not without a proper reason that Asians established themselves in rural trading centres such as Nambuma, Nkando, Golomoti, Namadzi. They were only ejected by Dr Banda’s Government in the 1970s in the mistaken belief that locals would take over the businesses
The national economy used to jolt into life when farmers sold their produce. The shops would enjoy very good patronage as the shoppers bought clothing items, groceries (including the ones manufactured by Lever Brothers) and sometimes even bicycles and radios. A local radio manufacturer, Nzeru Radio company had its clientelle spread across Malawi, the majority of which were rural farmers.
So our rural farmers are a sleeping majority that only needs to be awakened to participate in the running of the economy. When they are active, which they have not been for some years now, the economy vibrates. We need to bring them along as we seek to implement the ambitious Vision 2063. This economy simply cannot perform if these people are excluded from it. The handful wage earners we have cannot keep it running nearly as much as the rural masses would if they were given the chance to have some reasonably respectable income.
We need to seriously search within the various potentials means of buying produce from farmers and implement a few that appear promising.