Just when everybody was ecstatic with news that Malawi will realise a bumper maize yield this season, somebody decided to spoil the mood following revelations that some of the maize that we had stored in our granaries from the previous season is now rotten. Apparently because, somehow, those responsible did not give a hoot about managing the moisture content before filling the silos, hence the predicament.
It is a pity because, as we speak, there are pockets of hunger-stricken families in some areas and, as such, the maize in our Strategic Grain Reserves (SGR) would have gone a long way in mitigating the impact of hunger on such people.
But hang on a minute! This matter about rotten maize in our silos sounds way too familiar. In yester-years under the Joyce Banda-led administration, there was a time we encountered a similar narrative and, during that time, when quizzed, those responsible claimed to have used the rotten maize as cattle feed. How and why they made that decision none of us, plebians, know, and whether indeed the ‘rotten’ maize went to cattle, that is a story for another day.
Well, let sleeping dogs lie, they say; therefore, we will not dwell much on past mistakes but this latest episode at our silos has triggered a dejavu feeling.
Somebody somewhere needs to seriously track this issue. Otherwise, there might just be some foul play if we are not careful. I mean, for Pete’s sake, why didn’t anyone bother to check whether the maize had the requisite moisture content before loading the grain in the SGR? Somebody should start talking and should do so as in yesterday if we are to dismiss any such foul play theories like the one playing in my head.
Otherwise we cannot begin to toy around with food at a time those tasked with purchasing the grain are already on the ground. They certainly need to be serious, right from the outset, by ensuring that the maize which they are purchasing from farmers on the ground has the right moisture content and not leave it to the farmers, most of whom are only eager to cash in on their harvest while the rest is up to the buyer. In fact, the buyer should be spoilt for choice since he already knows what he wants.
So, whether from previous season or the current one, we must jealously guard our maize, which is a staple food in the country. If it happens once it is a mistake but once it happens again then it is something else, which is why Malawians have a right to raise eyebrows on this rotten maize saga.
Lighting the place
Wow! So the demand for electricity in this country hovers around a staggering 800 megawatts (mw) and we are only half way towards satisfying that demand? We have certainly moved at a snail’s pace and one wonders what it is that those who ‘lord’ over us have been doing over the years. For a long time, we have heard stories about the potential in some of our rivers that could accommodate hydro electric power plants but that is exactly that; stories! As if that chapter was not enough, somebody created a hype to do with clean energy that is generated through wind and indeed solar power but, as to how further we have gone to explore that avenue, only the man up above knows.
It is good that the current administration has prioritised energy issues, which also ties in well with the development aspirations of the country, as spelt out in Malawi 2063. My only concern though is the years we have wasted. For foreign investors to channel their resources to a country, one of the key elements they consider is that of power, hence we might have, to a certain extent, lost out on a chance to grow our economy by failing to vigorously revamp our energy sector.
It is sad that only a small fraction of the country’s population is connected to the electricity grid. Just the other day, we heard desperate pleas from people on the outskirts of Lilongwe who are said to have been removed from the grid as they were allegedly connected illegally to the power supply. We cannot continue to live in the dark ages when the rest of the world is moving at a fast pace. The 19mw that has just been added to the grid is certainly welcome but we can do more to ensure that we light up the place (literally). Even countries that we consider being better off than Malawi are also grappling with their own energy woes and, therefore, we cannot bank our hope solely on tapping from their energy sources.
Stephen Dakalira is a seasoned Journalist who works as Times Group’s Online and Digital Executive Editor. He is also the Assistant Editor of The Sunday Times Newspaper, and author of Full Circle column which appears in Malawi News; all of these under the Times Group stable.
He has previously worked in key positions for some of Malawi’s key media institutions such as Malawi News Agency, Capital FM Radio and Star Radio (Now Timveni Radio).