By Hon Makowa Mwale MP – Nkhotakota South East
Mr Speaker Sir, I have been motivated to come up with this motion in my capacity as Deputy Shadow Minister of Agriculture in the Malawi Congress Party (MCP).
I began conceptualising this motion last year in March 2006 at the height of last year’s biting hunger situation.
The main thrust of the motion is on the role of the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) and commercial farmers.
By commercial farmers I do not mean sugar estates…I mean medium to large scale farmers who have land or can rent land near a body of water in the country, and produce enough to feed the entire nation even during lean times.
The point, Mr Speaker Sir, is: the whole world wonders why Malawi cannot consistently feed itself when it has fertile land and abundant water.
This reminds me reading on a CIA website, a reference to the fact that land around Lilongwe is particularly fertile.
The impression I got, Mr Speaker Sir, from the write up is that Malawi has very fertile soils but somehow, Malawians of today are failing to put it to maximum use and hence return Malawi to the days of glory when we used to feed ourselves.
As a country, we should be ashamed to still be relying on rain-fed agriculture in this 21st century and fifty two years after independence.
Only our colleagues in the Executive Branch of Government can explain why we refuse to invest in irrigated agriculture but chose, instead, to spend millions in Cement/ Malata subsidies whose sustainability and cost-effectiveness are questionable.
Only our colleagues in the Executive Branch of Government can explain why we are importing maize from as far afield as Brazil and Romania when only a fraction of the money wasted can work wonders if made available to our commercial farmers.
The gist of my motion therefore is that contrary to current practice, part of the annual budgetary allocations to the NFRA should be dedicated to contracting out commercial farmers on production of irrigated winter maize.
To ensure transparency and accountability, the NFRA should every year advertise in the media, inviting commercial farmers to tender for contracts to produce irrigated winter maize. Clear criteria for qualification should be set and commercial farmers should competitively bid so as to ensure that we are getting value for money.
The selected qualifying commercial farmers would then produce the winter maize under close supervision of NFRA and other stakeholders to prevent cheating as it is possible for one to claim that a consignment of maize is coming from irrigated winter cropping when it is not or to spend the funds on other ventures that will only benefit the commercial farmers.
This, Mr Speaker Sir, would:
- solve our forex challenge,
- reduce cost of stocking maize by NFRA,
- create employment,
- contribute to national employment,
- contribute to national productivity
and make Malawi, once again, a net exporter of maize.
It is my hope that this August House will deem this motion worthy supporting and that government will indeed implement this motion without hesitation and without the unnecessary politicking that is taking Malawi down.
With these few remarks, I beg to move that,
- in order for government to solve and resolve the persistent problem of hunger due to erratic maize availability, and
- in order to prevent future sporadic sharp rises of maize prices,
the House resolves that government should immediately revise and amend the relevant policies and legislation governing the strategic national grain reserves to mandate and empower the NFRA to spend part of its budgetary allocations on contracting commercial farmers to produce irrigated winter maize in strategically selected locations in the country.
The winter maize so produced shall form part of the national strategic grain reserves without compromising the traditional stocking of NFRA grain silos with maize sourced from rain fed agriculture and occasional imports.
Mr Speaker Sir, I beg to move.
Editor’s Note: The House adopted the motion