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Enough to eat despite an uneven harvest

[Malawi] A cooperative farming effort involving 96 Malawian farmers in the south has benefited from an irrigation scheme drawing water from the river Shire. [Date picture taken: 2005/10/06]
Poor countries like Malawi are already feeling the impact of climate change-farmers have begun planting faster-maturing crops (IRIN)

Despite some remaining pockets of food insecurity and fears that a prolonged dry spell would set back Malawi's maize production in 2010, the country looks set to realize another surplus year.

Alick Nkhoma, assistant representative in Malawi of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), said all indications were that for the fifth consecutive year the country would produce enough maize, the staple food, even to support those in need in Southern Malawi, which experienced a dry spell.

In January, the Council for Non Governmental Organisations in Malawi (CONGOMA), an umbrella body for NGOs, had urged the government in a statement to "consider mobilizing resources for relief operations other than wait until the ugly face of this [possible] catastrophe begins to take its toll on the people".

Nkhoma pointed out that "Just like ... last year, good rains and a fertilizer subsidy programme helped to boost maize production. Many households are food secure, except for those in districts that experienced the dry spell."

A vendor selling maize in Kawale township in the capital, Lilongwe, located in the centre of the country, said most farmers had managed a bumper maize harvest and were already selling the surplus to commercial traders.

"In the rural areas of Lilongwe [district] most households managed to get coupons, with which they bought the subsidized fertilizers; the rains too were good in most areas - this is the reason there is enough maize here," vendor Thomson Mwale told IRIN.

The outlook in southern Malawi is not as rosy. A Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET) report noted that as many as half a million people in the Lower Shire Valley in southern Malawi had not harvested any maize and needed immediate humanitarian support, but "the government has enough stocks to meet these needs".

"However, while food production is expected to remain favourable between April and June, total production is likely to be reduced in 2010 in the [southern] districts of Mwanza, Neno, Chikhwawa, Nsanje, Mulanje, Phalombe, Balaka and Ntcheu," FEWSNET reported.

Elvis Nyalugwe, a smallholder farmer in Mwanza, said a number of households in the area would be in need of assistance, "because their crops withered during the prolonged dry spell; many planted twice or thrice, but damage had already been done to the plants."


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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