I begin my second year as United States ambassador to Malawi with great hope and optimism for the future of Malawi.
Events of the past year have demonstrated Malawiansâ€™ resilience, creativity and desire for good governance that will translate into a brighter future for all citizens. I am proud to state that throughout the most difficult of challenges, the United States remained Malawiâ€™s steadfast partner, while simultaneously advocating for what the people themselves demandedâ€”accountable and transparent government, human rights, quality social services, and a business environment that allows the private sector to prosper. Secretary of State Hillary Clintonâ€™s visit to Malawi last month highlighted our strong commitment to the government and people of Malawi.
Mindful of the hardships being encountered by most Malawians as a result of the hard choices made to turn the economy around, the United States extended new presidential initiatives that will strengthen growth and reduce poverty to Malawi.Â
President Joyce Banda personally launched our â€˜Feed the Futureâ€™ initiative, which will be active in seven districts, expanding smallholder farmers opportunities and participation in the dairy sector and increasing production of soy and groundnuts. â€˜Feed the Futureâ€™ particularly targets women and their vital role in small holder farming, and will build the capacity of Malawiâ€™s institutions and citizens to manage their own development and influence agriculture policy.
A similar undertaking called â€˜Food for Progressâ€™ will increase smallholder farmersâ€™ access to credit and improve nutrition by strengthening the goat, rice and cassava value chains in two additional districts. â€˜Food for Progressâ€™ also just launched the â€˜Buy Malawiâ€™ campaign, which will promote the consumption of nutritious Malawian products.Â
These two agriculture projects alone directly assist nearly 300 000 families. The United States is also working closely with the Ministry of Agriculture to develop a Private Sector Investment Strategy to help increase domestic and international investment in Malawiâ€™s agriculture sector. This support is timely, given opportunities for Malawi to try to qualify for new private sector funding streams through the G8â€™s â€˜New Alliance for Food Security and Nutritionâ€™. Related to agriculture, President Barack Obamaâ€™s Global Climate Change Initiative will help Malawi combat deforestation, promote sustainable land and watershed management, and mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change.Â
Enhanced nutrition and an invigorated agricultural sector will strengthen Malawi. However, the country will only truly prosper when its schools are capable of producing very large numbers of scholars equipped to be competitive in business, technology and the sciences.
But the largest United States investment in Malawi, over 75 percent of our assistance, is in the health sector, under the aegis of Obamaâ€™s Global Health Initiative. We are building human, infrastructural and supply chain capacity, all of which are prerequisites for Malawi to take responsibility for its own health services.
During her recent visit, Clinton announced 2 400 nursing scholarships. At the same time, we continue significant and broad assistance to Malawi in maternal, child and reproductive health, water and sanitation, and support to reinforce Malawiâ€™s leadership role in modern HIV and Aids, malaria and tuberculosis treatment and prevention. The United States also has over 130 Peace Corps Volunteers working in villages across the country in the education, health and environment sectors.Â
As a result of Bandaâ€™s May visit to the USA, we now also have a steady stream of American investors, foundations and individuals who are interested in Malawi.
I am only highlighting recent assistance efforts of my own country to Malawi. Ultimately, Malawians must take responsibility for their future. But for now, the international community at large has also shown great interest in helping Malawi and is being very generous. To those who say that donors have abandoned Malawi, I can say with certainty that nothing could be further from the truth.- The author is US ambassador to Malawi