Drought-prone Malawi projects bumper harvest

Good rains and a successful government-sponsored fertilizer and seed distribution programme boosted farmers’ yields, said Patrick Kabambe, secretary for agriculture and food security. The country is forecast to produce about 2,35 million metric tonnes of maize, just over the annual requirement of 2 million mt. Last season Malawi experienced one of its worst droughts in a decade and struggled to harvest just 1,3 million mt. The last bumper crop was 2,3 million mt in 1999/2000. Malawi’s food shortage, which left more than five million people in need last year, was compounded by the late delivery of fertilizers and seed. Around 80 percent of the country’s workforce are subsistence farmers who depend on fertilizers to grow crops on their exhausted soils. “This time we were able to provide the fertilizers and seed well in time in December 2005 (when the farmers were planting),” said Kabambe. The government introduced a coupon system giving small-scale farmers access to 147 000 mt of fertilizer at half the commercial price. “We have been able to distribute 95 percent of the (147 000 mt of) fertilizer and 6 000 mt of seeds,” noted Kabambe. The imminent harvest could have been larger if southern Malawi, which faced the brunt of last year’s drought, had not been lashed with heavy rain towards the end of the year, said Kabambe. The subsequent flooding destroyed standing crop in parts of the region. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has lauded the government’s fertilizer and seed distribution programme. Alick Nkoma, FAO’s assistant representative in Malawi, told reporters the government also plans to provide susbsidised fertilizer this year. “This will help farmers build their reserves of fertilizer considerably.” ‘ Irin.

April 2006
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