By Elijah Phompho:
The government’s decision to provide livestock under the Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP) to selected farmers in the Shire Valley districts of Chikwawa and Nsanje has raised hopes among farmers, who say they will be able to meet their economic needs.
The development comes at a time agricultural output in the two districts has been negatively affected by effects of climate change, including floods and droughts.
Climate change has been manifesting itself in Malawi in a number of ways and, just last week, the Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services blamed excessively hot conditions that persisted between Tuesday, November 2, to Saturday, November 6, to climate change.
The department’s director Jolamu Nkhokwe indicated that, during the days in question, the hot conditions were above the normal average by about four degrees.
“We experience hot temperatures when we are moving from the month of October to November but, this year, temperatures are going to be higher than what we were expecting and this points to the manifestation of climate change, which is being felt by many countries,” he said.
And, as one way of addressing challenges associated with climate change, the government has, using AIP, targeted farmers in Chikwawa and Nsanje with livestock, making it the first time farmers have been provided with livestock since the United Democratic Front started targeting farmers with inputs under the Starter Pack Programme.
When the Democratic Progressive Party phased out the Starter-Pack system and started implementing the Farm Inputs Subsidy Programme in 2006, the programme did not have a livestock component.
Likewise, the Tonse Alliance-led administration, which made AIP its flagship programme when it took over power in the June 23 2020 presidential election, did not introduce a livestock component in the 2020-21 agricultural season.
However, Ministry of Agriculture officials announced, earlier this year, that they had incorporated livestock in the 2021-22 AIP programme.
This means 18,489 Chikwawa farmers will get livestock while 64,602 farmers have been earmarked for crop production, translating to a total of 83,091 beneficiaries.
In Nsanje District, on the other hand, 44,716 farmers will benefit from the crop production component of AIP while 11,511 will get livestock, taking the total number of beneficiaries to 56,227.
A cross-section of farmers in Nsanje and Chikwawa districts told The Daily Times that they intended to try livestock farming this season, having failed to realise bumper harvests in the previous seasons due to either dry spells or floods.
“I am hopeful that if I embark on livestock production this year, I will be able to make ends meet and improve my economic situation,” said.
Babra Chakalmaba from Traditional Authority (T/A) Ndamera in Nsanje District.
Eunice Simeon, who is a mother of three and comes from T/A Nyachikadza in Nsanje District, said she would take advantage of the goats received under AIP to show other farmers that all types of farming can help the country meet its goals.
“I have observed that many people in the Shire Valley believe that those that depend solely on livestock production will find the going tough since they have to buy food commodities such as maize and sorghum for their daily sustenance. This is not true. I have seen those who are into livestock production realising enough money, which they use for purchasing maize or maize flour and other food items.
“Therefore, the goats I will get under AIP will be used for improving our household’s food security situation. I only hope that we will get the goats in good time,” she said.
Enipher Chabadwa, from Group Village Head (GVH) Mwita, T/A Katunga in Chikwawa District said, much as she would still cultivate crops this farming season, she believed that livestock farming would not only.