It is quite unfortunate that at this time when the rains are falling incessantly, many people are yet to access the much talked about affordable inputs due to, among other things, logistical glitches. Just like many had opined way before this year’s delayed programme rolled out, it has proven to be quite cumbersome to transport the commodity to all parts of the country which, in my view, is not just because of the rainy season but also the man-made mistakes by the authorities that shrouded the procurement of this season’s affordable inputs at the infancy stage.
We are yet to see if the call by the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) for government ministries, departments and agencies to release vehicles to Smallholder Farmers Fertiliser Revolving Fund of Malawi (SFFRFM) to help transport the subsidised inputs will pay dividend. Otherwise, it is quite scary to be having such inadequacies at this time.
Much as the government has dismissed reports that a broker declined to release vehicles to ferry fertiliser from Beira in Mozambique, the delay to have the inputs flood all access points in the country is a point of concern. This is something that should have been dealt with a long time ago had officials from both the agriculture ministry and SFFRFM put their foot right but we all are aware of the ‘butchery’ experience.
Most people cannot afford to purchase fertilisers on the parallel market, where a bag of Urea and that of NPK are fetching around K65,000 and K75,000 respectively in some parts of the country. You can therefore imagine the frustration of those who rely on the affordable inputs over the delay to access them; more so considering that this was the time the fertiliser was supposed to be applied in the fields before the plants reached about knee-high as is the current situation.
Perhaps there might just be merit in the suggestions by some chiefs that the answer might just lie in making the fertiliser affordable to all by packaging it in smaller quantities so that even on the parallel market everyone can afford to purchase the commodity. Imagine if the fertiliser was available in 5 or 10 Kilogramme packages on the market; would people still be complaining about AIP?
It is an unpleasant experience to be coming out every year with calls for relief support after being hit by hunger crisis and therefore the authorities should not toy around with the subsidised inputs dispatch, lest we end up having more people on the food crisis list. Already, about 3.8 million people affected by hunger in the country have since October been receiving support.
We know that the government intends to eventually phase AIP out but then this should not be done haphazardly. We still need to see things being done systematically until such a time when the programme will eventually be retired.
According to the Minister of Agriculture Sam Kawale, Malawi Defence Force came to the party after being approached to assist with delivery of fertiliser in hard-to-reach areas such as Chitipa and Rumphi districts.
Good tidings to you
Today, at exactly 11:59 pm, we close the year 2022 and hopefully, all the bad experiences and sad memories will go with it while welcoming the year 2023 at 12 am.
Most importantly, our good officials at Capital Hill need to ensure that we do not take with us into this new year the bad habits of corruption and fraud, which saw someone knocking on a butcherman’s door, hoping to buy fertiliser for the Affordable Inputs Programme. We need to ensure that in the New Year, people should not be subjected to erratic supply of fuel and there must be sanity as far as procurement of fuel and its transportation is concerned. This is the year that we will hold the electricity generators to account following their declaration of a new deadline for the completion of rehabilitations at Kapichira Hydro Electric Power Station.
Indeed, this is the year that Malawians will be scrutinising with a microscope all the developmental works that have been initiated under the Tone Alliance-led administration, two years after they assumed power. It is time to start tallying what was promised in their manifesto against what has been achieved on the ground. Remember, the first few years are important not just for laying groundwork but also achieving tangible examples of your long term goals.
Wishing everyone the very best of the new year!
Stephen Dakalira is a seasoned Journalist who works as Times Group’s Online and Digital Executive Editor. He is also the Assistant Editor of The Sunday Times Newspaper, and author of Full Circle column which appears in Malawi News; all of these under the Times Group stable.
He has previously worked in key positions for some of Malawi’s key media institutions such as Malawi News Agency, Capital FM Radio and Star Radio (Now Timveni Radio).