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Malawi government creating hunger—chiefs

Silence on the part of government to timely communicate to farmers on challenges dogging this year’s Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp) has angered some chiefs in the country who have since described the ‘casual’ approach as a ‘death sentence’.

Meanwhile, some parts of the country have received the first rains while over 800,000 coupons for the beneficiaries are yet to arrive and be distributed.

The first batch of the much needed coupons are said to have arrived on Tuesday this week, and according to Ministry of Agriculture officials, 687,900 of the printed coupons will first be given to farmers in the Southern Region.

But in an interview with The Daily Times on Tuesday, Traditional Authority Chanthunya of Balaka district faulted government for being too quiet, a move he said is the same as deliberately ‘creating hunger’ and sentencing its own people to death.

Chanthunya was speaking during an interface meeting with journalists organized by Civil Society Agriculture Network (Cisanet) with funding from Self Help Africa.

The TA observed that list of names of beneficiaries is yet to be released from Capital Hill a development which puts into question as to whether officials at the Ministry of Agriculture are in control of the situation.

Said Chanthunya: “It is not a secret that people will die of hunger this year. Government is to blame, first they chose to change the system of identifying beneficiaries and we were not even consulted as chiefs. I don’t know who among my subjects will receive the coupons and whether those beneficiaries are still alive.

“Climate change hits this district so hard and we always have to plant with the first rains if we are to yield a little something, but with the situation now we just have to brace for more starvation.”

The chief added that majority of farmers will not afford the hiked prices of fertilizer and therefore, wondered as to whether the programme is specifically meant to enrich some officials in government.

“If the farmers were struggling to raise K1,000 to purchase two bags of fertilizer then where do you think they will get the K8,500 which is being requested. You must also consider transportation to markets 35 kilometres away, so we are talking of over K12, 000 just for a farmer to buy the inputs.

On his part, Group Village Headman Mponda also from Balaka, branded the subsidy programme as a political tool to woo votes and not meant to economically empower poor farmers.

“These villagers are only needed when its campaign time but once the leaders assume power these farmers are forgotten. No one bothers to listen to their concerns, no communication from government; these farmers have now just been left to fend for themselves and survive,” said Mponda.

Some Members of Parliament currently meeting in Lilongwe have also expressed concern on the way this year’s Fisp is being implemented following a number of challenges dogging the programme.

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