Sunday, 15 July 2007

Malawi's maize

I mentioned a while ago that the maize harvest in Malawi was going to be a record this year, on top of a record last year.

While this was good news, I did read elsewhere the question being asked of why they were still receiving aid from the US. It might seem that it’s a good idea – the money could be given to people living in such poverty they cannot afford to buy maize, even at the presumably low prices a record harvest would produce.

Regrettably, according to an article in The Observer, the aid money has to be spent buying American grain which is to be shipped to Malawi. So Malawi farmers cannot sell their produce and the price has dropped drastically, and no doubt the shipping of the grain from the States is adding to global warming. The farmers in the meantime have been struggling themselves and have been put off buying seed from the following year, and they don’t have the money for it anyway.

Then the ban on selling grain outside Malawi was lifted so that farmers could sell the excess to Zimbabwe. Again, a good idea that would support the price of maize and help Zimbabwe’s urgent need. According to The Daily Times in Malawi though, there has been little policing of the amount of maize exported which is necessary to ensure sufficient stocks are left in Malawi for the country’s own needs.

What is required, according to Mary Khozombah who works for Oxfam in Malawi, is empowerment of local farmers.

People who want to help Malawi need to support agriculture by educating farmers, improving irrigation, helping people find other forms of income. We need empowerment so our farmers can export. Ask us! We might come up with good ideas.

Food aid should be the last resort, in an emergency - and even then it should be bought locally if possible.


  1. That does indeed seem to be a problem with foreign -- particularly American? -- aid: i.e., that much, if not all, of it has to go on items that are from the country where the aid came from... :(

    Re Zimbabwe: I was there in December 1995. Back then, it already had a 50% unemployment rate yet, at the same time, it still seemed a lot less dysfunctional than some other African countries. The latter is, alas for it, less and less the case... :(

  2. There is also the problem of aid coming in the form of food rather than promoting the production of food in the country itself. There can be a need for short term food aid to prevent malnutrition, but in the long term people need to be helped to help themselves.


Forethoughts, afterthoughts, any thoughts. Tell me.


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