MVAC reports need serious vetting


Malawians have for ages relied on the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (Mvac) predictions in as far as forecasting food security at national level is concerned.

Mvac reports form the basis on which government, donors and other stakeholders make their budget plans to help Malawians who find themselves staring straight in the eyes of excruciating hunger.

But at times, the Mvac reports become questionable. Take their current report for instance. Their figures kept on rising until they said that 6.5 million Malawians were at risk of being food insecure.


This jolted the government and its allies into action.

In short, the government decided to import maize even from places, such as Dubai, where maize has never grown since creation.

What beats the imagination is that 6.5 million people make almost half of the entire population of Malawi but one can hardly see the desperate souls that cannot access the grain. Malawians even have a choice between buying from Admarc and commercial vendors. As it is, Admarc markets are being shunned because of their prohibitive prices.


Even the prediction by Minister of Agriculture, George Chaponda, that Malawians would turn to Admarc because vendors would run short of stock seems more far-fetched now than when it was made. Vendors still have plenty of the grain and some warehouses have not even started releasing their stocks.

And this is mid-February. In the next three weeks, farmers in the Southern Region will start harvesting green maize, shattering government hopes that people will queue at Admarc markets for the staple food.

This means that Admarc will be stuck with its expensive grain. It will be forced either to sell it at a “loss” or dump it at processors premises to be turned into animal feed.

But the purported food shortage was manmade. Government delayed in distributing coupons with which smallholder farmers could access subsidised farm inputs. The situation was aggravated by erratic rainfall that the country received in the previous two agriculture seasons.

Later, the government messed up again when it took long to fund or allow Admarc to start buying produce from farmers. By the time Admarc was allowed into the market, the business minded vendor had already wiped the market of any grain.

Fast forward. The government panicked and waded its way into the infamous maize imports from Zambia. Everything was done in a hurry, and, as Chaponda said, as if the house was on fire. But the haste cannot be justified because the ministerial discussions started in May until October 2016. Surely, a discussion on an emergency cannot take six months!

It’s now tempting to think that the Mvac figures were exaggerated and government officials wanted to cash in on the purported food shortage.

But in the process, the poor Malawian is the loser. They have been yoked into an unnecessary loan and have been denied access to the maize but will still have to pay for the loan through their taxes. Forget about the yarn that Admarc will settle the loan from its commercial activities because Admarc is a parastatal entity funded by tax payers’ money.

Perhaps the most painful thing is the thinking of some few Malawians that having taken innocent Malawians through the agony of the purported food shortage, the irresponsible public officers should go unpunished.

These hired hands contend that money never changed hands as the villains only breached some procedures.

This is partly the reason why this country is not developing. We like cutting corners, forgetting that procedures are everything. Rules help us to do things in an orderly manner. But we believe that we can side-step procedures and regularise them after the damage is done.

Having gone through this painfully humiliating experience of the Maizegate, it is time we kept an eye on the Mvac. We need checks and balances on Mvac assessment and reports. Otherwise, unscrupulous public officers will continue duping the poor as they enrich themselves.

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