The government Tuesday admitted that it is facing funding challenges to address the looming hunger crisis, which has already affected over one million people, as dry spells and crop eating pests continue to destroy maize fields.
Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Minister, Joseph Mwanamvekha, on Monday told Parliament that K88.4 billion is needed to implement short, medium and long-term measures to deal with the fall armyworm and dry spells that have left an estimated 1.9 million people vulnerable.
Another worrying scenario for the government is that the crop eating pest has grown resistant to recommended pesticides: Cypermethrine and Dursban
And worse still, the pest has, so far, affected 707,389 farming families across the country.
Mwanamvekha said the government has already spent billions on the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp) and other agriculture-related programmes; hence, it is finding it hard to address the volatile situation as funds are not readily available.
He raised the sentiments during the handover ceremony of cowpeas and sorghum seeds, which Multi-seeds Company (Museco) donated Tuesday
“Provision of inputs to the farmers comes with a cost. Currently, the government is facing challenges in sourcing out funds to adequately address the situation at hand, considering that it has already spent much on Fisp,” Mwanamvekha said.
His plea comes at a time Minister of Finance, Goodall Gondwe, is complaining about how the Malawi Revenue Authority’s failure to meet revenue targets may end up affecting his K1.3 trillion 2017/18 national budget.
Gondwe has since said that he is going to propose some expenditure cuts in the current budget when he presents his mid-term budget review next week Friday to free up some funds and buy maize and avoid imports.
Ministry of Agriculture spokesperson, Osborne Tsoka, confirmed that the pest has grown resistant to the recommended pesticides.
Tsoka said Cypermethrine and Dursban were the two chemicals that are being used, but observed that they have become resistant.
“Because the pest is becoming resistant, that is why we have about seven recommended chemicals to help [in dealing] with the problem. In terms of integrated pest management, we need to keep on changing pesticides. we can no longer use them. So, we have a series of pesticides which means, next year, we can opt to use either Stewart, Proclaim fit or Belt 480,” Tsoka said.
But Farmers Union of Malawi President, Alfred Kapichira Banda, accused the government of adopting an unsustainable approach towards the problem.
“If the other chemicals are becoming resistant, what the ministry has to do is to go back to the laboratory and conduct further examinations on the pest,” Banda said.
“They can even consult other countries on how they can go about [dealing] with the problem. If we keep changing the pesticides we will, at the end of the day exhaust all the recommended chemicals,” Banda said.
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