Everything changes except change itself. Good conditions change to bad ones and vice versa. Yes, years of bumper harvests change to the lean ones just as was the case in Egypt of one Pharaoh and Joseph, the son of Jacob.
As a nation, do we, Malawians, learn from both good and bad years? A few years ago, Malawi was the pride of Africa as far as good harvests were concerned. Now the country is going about with a begging bowl, asking for handouts to feed its 1.5 million citizens who are facing starvation.
Had we learned what happened sometime in the 1960s, perhaps the present situation would have found us better prepared to confront it.
I cannot remember the exact year when former president Dr Hasting Kamuzu Banda said â€œwe have caught up with Ghana and Ugandaâ€.
The Gold Coast, as Ghana was known during the colonial days, and Uganda were models of British colonies in Africa. Ghana was prospering from cocoa and Uganda from coffee.
The growers and earners of the export cash were wananchi as they say in Swahili â€”children of the land. The Gold Coast has a college called Achimota while Uganda had Makerere.
In the 1970s Malawi was doing so well that one of the Bretton Woods institutions, in its annual report, described it as a â€˜star performerâ€™ economically among African countries.
It had ample foreign reserves from its exports of tobacco. All the tobacco we were growing was selling at good prices.
How did this come about? In 1965, the prime minister of Southern Rhodesian declared the country independent in defiance of the Labour Party government of Harold Wilson, prime minister of Britain.
At the request of Britain and the United Nations, tobacco buyers boycotted Southern Rhodesia tobacco.
President Banda ordered banks to give loans to political party stalwarts so that they could engage in tobacco growing. For the first time, tobacco farms were established.
In 1980, Southern Rhodesia became the rightfully independent republic of Zimbabwe. Those who had been buying Malawi tobacco as a matter of international political solidarity went back to Zimbabwe; the demand for Malawi tobacco fell drastically and Malawi foreign reserves dwindled.
If we had known that Malawiâ€™s success in those years was a matter of chance, we should have been prepared for the change. We did not draw the right conclusions as to the reasons behind our success.
During the first term of the later president Bingu wa Mutharikaâ€™s regime, Malawi achieved self sufficiency in food and received applauses far and wide. Nay, our leaders invited their fellow African leaders to send their experts to Malawi and learn what the country had done to kill the dragon called famine.
We explained our success as based on skilful managed subsidies of fertilisers and other inputs. We gave less credit to the Almighty for giving us steady rains for about five years. When, in the 2011 to 2012 season, we received unreliable rains, we realised that fertilisers alone cannot boost yields.
Had we known in the years of bumper yields, greater attention would have been given to storing the floods in reservoirs to be used for irrigation.
I see a point what one American business magnate said that there is a formula for both success and failure.
To engage in continuous success you must do those things which in a good year brought you success and avoid those which in a bad year brought you failure.
No matter how much education we have acquired, if we Malawians are to make success of our nation in matters of food security and general economic development, we must be guided by the principles of success.
In agriculture, what should be our approach? Let us read and consider the statement that chairperson Hu Yaobang of the Peopleâ€™s Republic of China made in September 1982 at the 12th National Congress of the Communist Party that: â€œAgriculture is the foundation of the national economy and provided it grows, we can handle the other problems more easily.â€