To hell with the politics of maize


The recent narrative on the production and distribution of maize in the country is at best motivating and at worst latish.

Thanks Parliament for impressing it upon government to invest in irrigation and to expand the infrastructure as fast as possible.

Thanks indeed – along with civil society – for advising government to declare a state of disaster and commence resource mobilization. Doubtless it will be a repeat of this year’s disaster. There’s no reason getting it wrong. Not again.


But as government moves into irrigation, talk of forced land claims; displacement without ample notice; little or delayed compensation; acts indicative of corruption, exploitation and violation of rights are serious detractors.

Obviously this is fertile ground for opportunists to screw up poor people capitalising on ignorance poverty and desperation. Well, ACB here is your job cut and dried. Get ready to move in.

As for me Malawians deserve not only to know what is happening but who the actors are, what the legality of their actions and machinations are, and what action must be taken. If government officials I would expect heads roll.


Government must admit the shameless corruption that has characterised land sales, purchase and acquisitions, apart from everything else. Government must make absolutely certain the law of equal justice is applied without sanitisation.

The debate regarding expanded private sector engagement versus the position of smallholder producers is perfectly healthy; so are the legal and rights issues of land leases to producers.

This is vital stuff to ministers for agriculture and for land; the councils and traditional leaders. It is vital stuff to civil society organizations and the media who jointly have faithfully stood up for the voiceless, blindfolded and exploited.

Given the public sector anti-corruption drive and a vigilant civil society there is no reason anybody should lose land at the bidding of the rich and powerful. There should be no room for strange companies springing up to procure corruptly land they will only re-sell or sub-lease at obscene prices.

I suggest government should not create room for political leaders, traditional leaders or for that matter, public servants to receive kick-backs from investing entities effectively making poor peasants ultra-poor.

Meanwhile, the propensity to drive the Malawi economy aground opportunistically must die in all of us, replaced by an active sense of equal justice, duty to government and to Nation.

Pursuing the ideation of President Peter Mutharika, it’s time for integrity in our actions and decisions; time for hard sacrificial work; and time for true patriotism for the sake of Malawi and posterity.

I believe that times of such paradigm shift are also times to marshal our institutional capacities to develop irrigation in a framework that assures justice for transacting parties; respect for affected parties and timely execution of commensurate compensation.

Forced land claims indicate violation of rights to property and to free participation in the economy. Reports of poor compensation express illegalities, exploitation and abuse. Traces of corruptly allocating land to favoured companies are criminal acts which must be pursued with optimal legal rigour.

Yes we are gallantly preparing for times of plenty – if we stay the course withstanding all hardships- but government must adjust its policies to promote the best of technology and management.

Privatising maize and other food production must be linked to technologies that raise production without exploiting more land. Presently production increase equals more land exploitation. Well, it must not be size and expanse but optimal productivity.

We must remember agriculture while key to livelihood is the worst environmental abuser and degrader. Agriculture is as much a cause of climate change as it is a victim.

Government will do well to address the politics of maize decisively and transition from ‘feeding the people’ for political rewards to preparing people to feed themselves through private investment.

That maize production i s dominated by presidents, finance and agriculture ministers, is not strategy; it is politics of popularity. This is why Admarc buys maize at market price to sell it at a loss. This is why school fees won’t go up despite the clarity of the economics.

Unfortunately, all this is social control. Using basic needs like food for social control only creates a façade for progress without actual economic growth.

In similar manner those who benefit in the sale of inputs exploit the weakness of citizens and exert pressure on politicians to maintain poor policies. Some of whom cash in criminally, keeping Malawi poor for a few to gain.

Not that government is not aware, oh no!

Professors Blessings Chinsinga and Wiseman Chirwa have argued for years against such maize-orientedness. All other staples combined will not make a third of maize produced.

What’s sad, they argue, is that the legitimacy of politicians is so closely linked to people’s ability to produce maize. This is the reason government bothers about maize more than tobacco. This is why Fisp is a god of riches.

In case you did not know Malawians eat more maize per capita than any other country on planet earth. Quite something but terribly un-progressive!

Talking of other crops, let irrigation diversify crop production from the outset. In this respect consultations with farmers and investors to formulate a diversification strategy over the next decade or so are not only in order but urgent too.

Attention agriculture minister. As private sector producers get into irrigation be charged to examine four major issues:

First resolve the position of the smallholder farmer who with a little help would grow more, building on traditional methods. Large scale private irrigation should not overshadow smallholder production for livelihood reasons not stupid politics.

Second, the greatest deterrent to private companies investing in grain production according to the literature is unstable markets for export and I dare add poor local purchasing power; so address market structure issues.

Third, preach diversification henceforth and examine the place of all other high value crops smallholder farmers can produce for cash and investment.

Forth and not least minister, stop the wars and politics of maize. It’s time wasting.

Good luck moving forward.

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