Not this again


It is a known fact that we, as a country, have been sailing through turbulent times after disaster struck in March that saw some districts in the Southern region being overrun by raging waters. As if that was not enough, news quickly spread that in the Northern region district of Karonga, things are not looking good as drought has caused damage to a lot of maize and rice fields, heightening the discomfort among many, considering the fact that over 2.6 million people are experiencing high acute food insecurity, according to IPC Acute Food Insecurity Analysis June 2022).

Considering that many of those who were affected by the Cyclone Freddy-induced disasters in the South also lost their fields, the figure of those affected by hunger will most likely be much higher. We know that traditionally in Malawi 5.4 million people are chronically food insecure and therefore any slight shake up in food availability spells trouble for the country.

I was therefore shocked this other day to learn that currently, the National Food Reserve Agency has only a maize stock of 60,000 metric tonnes (MT) in its reserves against the required strategic grain reserve stocks of 217,000 MT. Now this is a recipe for disaster. We needed to, at all cost, have our grain silos well replenished many months ago when we discovered that over 2.6 million would be hunger-stricken. But now here we are, even after our good legislators understood the urgency of the assignment by allocating a total sum of K12 billion for maize purchase, neither NFRA or the Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) has started purchasing maize on the ground. NFRA’s acting CEO David Loga has indicated that they are more than ready to go on the market and fulfill the task, only that Capital Hill has not given them (NFRA) the mandate, so they are in the dark, just like their colleagues across the aisle (Admarc).


Now, in a country where food diversification is only talked of in undertones but hardly seriously acted upon, it would not entirely be wrong to intimate that as things stand, we are sitting on a ticking time-bomb. We are in a country where only a few people can do without eating nsima, and this can be typified by what we heard last month from one of the survivors of the Cyclone Freddy-induced disaster at an evacuation camp. He openly complained that people of goodwill should not be giving them junk food but only that which is made from maize such as nsima. I brought that up just so that you could appreciate what having a depleted maize grain reserve would mean to most people in the country.

Ladies and gentlemen, everything aside, it is high time we seriously altered our food consumption routine. We must stop this habit of thinking that the only food which qualifies to be ‘a meal’ is nsima. I mean, some still get stuffed after eating rice, kondowole, macaroni, spaghetti or noodles (which is a hit among students). Even readily available foods such as sweet potatoes, pumpkins, Irish potatoes can satisfy a hungry man. In fact, at a time when Non Communicable Diseases such as Diabetes and High Blood Pressure are giving many sleepless nights, these are some of the foods to opt for as opposed to nsima.

But that is a topic for another day. Right now we need the authorities to take drastic steps so that either Admarc or NFRA can quickly move and start purchasing maize from farmers before it is too late. By the time we awaken from our deep slumber, we would have discovered that vendors have cleaned all the maize or worse still, it has been smuggled beyond the borders.


In fact, this is also the very reason why our farmers have remained miserably poor despite toiling hard throughout the years. It is not right that after harvesting a good maize crop in the field, our farmers should then be at the mercy of vendors since Admarc or NFRA are nowhere to be seen. By extension, the same pattern can be observed regarding our yields when we try to make inroads on the international market. Even where the farmer has a fairly good product, his or her fellow Malawians are the first to try and put speedbumps in his or her way and as a result, buyers simply take advantage of the situation and our gullibility.

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