Monday, April 30, 2012

Malaise in Malawi

In Malawi, like most other countries in the region (with the exception of South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe), more than 60 percent of land is customary, meaning that it is mostly untitled and administered by local chiefs on behalf of the government, with local communities merely enjoying user rights. The system has led to many abuses, with some government officials and chiefs selling off customary lands and dispossessing smallholder farmers who are already competing for dwindling arable land as Malawi’s population increases.

“There’s nothing [they] can do because they’re not protected in any way by the law,” said Blessings Chinsinga, a lecturer at the University of Malawi’s Chancellor College, who is researching the political economy of land grabs and land reform in the country. In a research report co-authored by Chinsinga, he notes that the issue of “land grabs” in Malawi dates back to Banda's transferring of large parcels of land from smallholder farmers to the estate sector, largely to the benefit of political elites who helped sustain his regime.

Dorothy Dyton, her husband and seven children used to make a living farming just over a hectare near the town of Bangula in southern Malawi’s Chikhwawa District. Like most smallholder farmers in Malawi, they did not have a title deed for the land Dyton was born on, and in 2009 she and about 2,000 other subsistence farmers from the area were informed by their local chief that the land had been sold and they could no longer cultivate there. They had already been removed once from the land during former President Hastings Banda’s regime in the 1970s and had not been allowed to return until Banda’s regime ended in 1994 and the cattle ranch established there by his political ally, John Tembo, had ceased to function. They continued to farm the land for another season. But in 2010, as they prepared to plant, they were met by a police van and the chief, Fennwick Mandala, who warned them not to come back. The next day, the farmers again set out for their fields, but this time they were met by tear gas and rubber bullets and that night six of them were arrested and charged with trespassing. With a game reserve on one side of the community and the Shire river and Mozambique border on the other, there is no other available land for them to farm and the family now ekes out a living selling firewood they gather from the nearby forest. The three oldest children have had to drop out of school to help their parents.The 2,000 hectares of land once farmed by Dyton and her neighbours is now owned by a company called Agricane, which is leasing it to Illovo for sugar cane production. Agricane’s country director, Bouke Bijl, explained that his company bought the land from a bank which had acquired it from John Tembo after he defaulted on a loan.  “Life has been very hard on us." said Dyton.

“People aren’t getting enough to eat,” said Isaac Falakeza, another community member. “Some are doing piece work on other people’s gardens, others are harvesting water lilies. You can see how malnourished the children are.”

Following the ousting of Banda and the transition to democracy, the government set up a Commission of Inquiry on Land Reform the findings of which formed the basis of a new land policy in 2002. The policy attempts to address smallholder farmers’ lack of security of tenure by allowing them to register their customary land as private property, but the legislative changes needed to implement the policy have not gone through parliament and the land reform process has effectively stalled.

“Politicians own massive tracts of land; they benefited from the previous system, so they’re reluctant to adopt a new legislative framework that would correct the land imbalances
,” commented Chinsinga.

A 2010 report by Grain, noted that Malawi’s lack of land reform had resulted in increasingly inequitable distribution of land, with large tracts of farmland ending up in foreign hands. In 2009, the government allocated 50,000 hectares of farmland to the government of Djibouti. Another programme championed by Mutharika, the GBI aims to acquire 340,000 hectares of irrigable land along Lake Malawi and the banks of the Shire river with the goal of increasing agricultural production and national food security.
Several foreign companies have acquired land under the auspices of the programme which, according to Chinsinga’s paper, “views customary land as an unlimited reservoir that can be targeted for conversion for privatization”.

Chikhwawa District is already dominated by sprawling sugar plantations owned by South African sugar giant Illovo Sugar. According to several sources, Illovo is intent on expanding its presence in the area and enjoys government support because of the much needed foreign exchange it generates.

The resource curse once again

The largest mining investment in the Democratic Republic of the Congo should have brought jobs, growth and development to the surrounding community, but has instead brought poverty, according to a report by Southern Africa Resource Watch. The mine produced about 115,000 tonnes of copper and 8,000 tonnes of cobalt in 2010.

The US$2 billion investment by Tenke Fungurume Mining (TFM) in the copper and cobalt mine in Fungurume has resulted in a decline in the community's once thriving agriculture sector and the closure of many small businesses due to a drying up of money in the area. Since the mine's operation, many people had abandoned agriculture in an attempt to find jobs at the mine, which were ultimately not made available to locals. Furthermore, the 1,600 square kilometre concession area had meant that agriculture was no longer allowed in many areas, he said, adding that people were not told where they were and were not allowed to farm.

The company said that between 2006 and September 2011, it made social investments of $42 million. The few social projects that the company had carried out had "not brought value to the community" because the community was not consulted at all, Southern Africa Resource Watch director and co-author of the report, Claude Kabemba said. "It is like 'an elephant which passes through a village and does not pay any attention to the barking dog'." Kabemba said that as part of its social project, TFM had rebuilt some schools, although not as promised and without consultation with the locals, and had put a clean water supply into the community, although this was only at one point which was a far walk for most people. The few things that had been done had been done poorly and without any interaction with the community. "This reflects a lack of seriousness and attention to social responsibility," he said.

TFM's own report said that it contributes 0.3% of net metal sales revenue to the TFM Social Community Fund, and since the commencement of commercial production, these contributions have totalled $7 million. Claude Kabemba countered that the community could not access this fund and while the fund definitely did exist, it was not clear how it was being used.

While the company said that approximately 98% of direct TFM employees are DRC citizens, the report found that no Fungurume locals had been employed at the mine, and TFM had brought in workers from other areas. These workers stayed at a camp outside of Fungurume, and therefore had little exposure to the community. This meant that workers did not spend any of their incomes in the village and as a result, there was no money in circulation. Kabemba believed that the only reason the company would choose to find workers elsewhere was a "strategy to ensure the community does not have a say", and an attempt to avoid strikes or any community involvement. Also, many small businesses had to close because of a lack of money in the community, and the local economy had become "stagnant", he said.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Africa's sick record

Shedding more insight on global health issues, Luis Sambo, Director of WHO-Afro disclosed that while 59 million people died globally in 2008, 19 per cent of these deaths were in the African continent which attributes only 12 per cent of world population. He further pointed out that 63 per cent of these deaths were caused by communicable diseases of which about 16 per cent are attributed to Human immune Virus (HIV).

According to Sambo, "While developing countries especially those in sub-Saharan Africa face both communicable and non-communicable diseases, some of the health inequalities seen could have been averted through the adoption of relevant health and economic policies."

Samir Banoob, Professor of Health Policy and Management and President of International  Health Management, stressed the need for medical professionals to live up to public expectations and adhere to ethical  standards. "Public health saves thousands of live and professionals should serve the public without prejudice - not closing their eyes to victims of negligence, war and political unrest while people die unreasonably,"

Saturday, April 28, 2012

mining the rich but not for the poor

John Paul Getty, once quipped that the meek may  inherit the earth but not the mining rights.

This years' list of the who's who of world mining, metal and minerals billionaires recently published by the popular mining web site tells a story. Not unsurprisingly, not one of  the mining super rich is an African. The richest of all the mining plutocrats is Eike Batista, son of the former CEO of Vale, Brazil's largest mining company. Young Eike is  now worth USD 33billion and is the richest man in Brazil and the 10th richest in the world. As ever, being born rich, really helps if your aim is to make the super-rich list.

It is estimated that the net worth of the 40 richest mining billionaires is in the vicinity of USD 300 billion in 2011, roughly equivalent to about of 40 percent of Sub-Saharan Africa's GD (excluding South Africa). The theory has been that the state gets the mineral wealth and then shares it among the citizenry. The reality is more dismal  In the countries dominated by mining they have the most unequal distribution of income in the world. The three most unequal countries in the world are Namibia, South Africa and Botswana. The increasingly divided world of a few very rich individuals dominating the mining and metal sector and the host countries calling for greater equity in the distribution of benefits, unable to lift their own citizens out of poverty, is set to continue

A new "resource nationalism", as it has come to be called, has been spawned by this relentless accumulation of wealth. These new nationalist mining policies include local ownership eg Zimbabwe.  Zambia is about to cut new deals with its copper mining companies. Additional profits taxes are proposed in South Africa. These new taxes which are supposed to capture high profits when prices rise are becoming de rigeur. Yet the experience from countries like Papua New Guinea which have long had these taxes is that mining companies and their accountants will find clever ways to avoid them. In addition, governments challenged when it comes to implementing inclusive policies that lift the bulk of the population out of poverty.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Why Are Sudans at War?

Formerly a single country, Sudan has split in to two states.

It all looked so good just over a year ago. the Republic of Sudan's President, Omar el-Beshir, had visited South Sudan's capital Juba and promised to welcome and recognise a vote for secession, if this was, "the price of peace." Indeed, Bashir kept his promise and attended the independence celebrations and was the first to recognize the new state of South Sudan.

Today, however, the two countries are at war, in the border area of Heglig, as well as by proxy in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, and increasingly in the borderlands of South Sudan as well. Heglig oil wells may account for as much as 80,000 barrels per day of Sudan's 120,000-130,000 bpd output. Khartoum cannot afford to lose this. It simply does not have the foreign currency reserves to keep importing fuel to make up the gap, and there are fears the prices of basic good could rise.

Sudan's government has ordered its civil servants to donate part of their salaries to support the army, according to the official state news agency. Sudan's finance minister Ali Mahmud al-Rasul has also cut the petrol rations of government departments by 50%. Analysts say the measures are a sign that Sudan's economy has been badly hit, both by the loss of revenue from when South Sudan became independent last year, and by the recent clashes between the two nations.

While the decision by South Sudan to shut down oil production in January - 98% of government revenue - after Sudan impounded South Sudan's oil shipments amid a dispute over transit fees - its effects are being felt. There is the beginnings of a fuel crisis in Juba, and infrastructure projects and development are on hold.

 An all-out war would create great misery for all peoples, as all wars always do.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Namibia and the Anti-Chinese Backlash

"22 years of independence and thousands of construction tenders worth billions of dollars have been awarded mostly to Chinese contractors, yet we find poverty, lack of housing, unemployment, dilapidated school buildings, hospitals and roads in our country... Chinese are robbing our people with their poor business practices, killing our local businesses and due to the working conditions most of our people working for Chinese companies are left with diseases, such as TB and skin diseases. These people are also not environmentally-friendly and are destroying our environment."

Socialist Banner has posted on several occasion upon Chinese expansionism, and has not shied away from describing it as a new imperialism and neo-colonialism. However, we must caution against racism and xenophobia. We must differentiate between the Chinese state and their corporations exploiting for profits and the Chinese migrant workers who, similar to the  African or Latino poor, search for a better life for themselves and their families. The solution is solidarity between Namibian workers and Chinese, uniting against their common enemy, the capitalist class.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The population problem

In a quarter-century, at the rate Nigeria is growing, 300 million people — a population about as big as that of the present-day United States — will live in a country roughly the size of Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada. In this commercial hub, where the area’s population has by some estimates nearly doubled over 15 years to 21 million, living standards for many are falling.

A typical apartment block is known as a “Face Me, Face You” because whole families squeeze into 7-by-11-foot rooms along a narrow corridor. Up to 50 people share a kitchen, toilet and sink — though the pipes in the neighborhood often no longer carry water.

At Alapere Primary School, more than 100 students cram into most classrooms, two to a desk. As graduates pour out of high schools and universities, Nigeria’s unemployment rate is nearly 50 percent for people in urban areas ages 15 to 24

Last October, the United Nations announced the global population had breached seven billion and would expand rapidly for decades, taxing natural resources if countries cannot better manage the growth. Nearly all of the increase is in sub-Saharan Africa, where the population rise far outstrips economic expansion. Of the roughly 20 countries where women average more than five children, almost all are in the region. Elsewhere in the developing world, in Asia and Latin America, fertility rates have fallen sharply in recent generations and now resemble those in the United States — just above two children per woman.

“The pace of growth in Africa is unlike anything else ever in history and a critical problem,” said Joel E. Cohen, a professor of population at Rockefeller University in New York City.

Nigeria, already the world’s sixth most populous nation with 167 million people, is a crucial test case. If this large nation rich with oil cannot control its growth, what hope is there for the many smaller, poorer countries? Nigeria made contraceptives free last year, and officials are promoting smaller families as a key to economic salvation, holding up the financial gains in nations like Thailand as inspiration. Some experts worry that it, and other African nations, will not act forcefully enough to rein in population growth. For two decades, the Nigerian government has recommended that families limit themselves to four children, with little effect. Nigeria, like many sub-Saharan African countries, has experienced a slight decline in average fertility rates, to about 5.5 last year from 6.8 in 1975. But this level of fertility, combined with an extremely young population, still puts such countries on a steep and disastrous growth curve. Half of Nigerian women are under 19, just entering their peak childbearing years. In a deeply religious country where many Roman Catholics and Muslims oppose contraception, politicians and doctors broach the topic gingerly, and change is slow. Posters promote “birth spacing,” not “birth control.” Supplies of contraceptives are often erratic.

“Population is key,” said Peter Ogunjuyigbe, a demographer at Obafemi Awolowo University in the small central city of Ile-Ife. “If you don’t take care of population, schools can’t cope, hospitals can’t cope, there’s not enough housing — there’s nothing you can do to have economic development.”

Parfait M. Eloundou-Enyegue, a professor of development sociology at Cornell University, said, “Many countries only get religion when faced with food riots or being told they have the highest fertility rate in the world or start worrying about political unrest.” In Nigeria, experts say, the swelling ranks of unemployed youths with little hope have fed the growth of the radical Islamist group Boko Haram

Sub-Saharan Africa, which now accounts for 12 percent of the world’s population, will account for more than a third by 2100, by many projections. Because Africa was for centuries agriculturally based and sparsely populated, it made sense for leaders to promote high fertility rates. Family planning, introduced in the 1970s by groups like Usaid, was initially regarded as foreign, and later on, money and attention were diverted from family planning to Africa’s AIDS crisis. As Nigeria urbanizes, children’s help is not needed in fields; the extended families have broken down. “Children were seen as a kind of insurance for the future; now they are a liability for life,”  Dr. Ogunjuyigbe said

Dr. Eloundou-Enyegue worries that Africa’s modestly declining birthrates reflect relatively rich, educated people reducing to invest in raising “quality” children, while poor people continue to have many offspring, strengthening divisions between haves and have-nots. “When you have a system with a large degree of corruption and inequality, it’s hard not to be playing the lottery because it increases the chances that one child will succeed,”

In Nigeria’s desperately poor neighbor, Niger, women have on average more than seven children, and men consider their ideal to be more than 12. But with land divided among so many sons, the size of a typical family plot has fallen by more than a third since 2005, meaning there is little long-term hope for feeding children, said Amadou Sayo, of the aid group CARE

Rebellion of the Poor

Minister of Police Nathi Mthetwa informed Parliament of the number of "crowd management incidents" that occurred during the three years from April 1 2009. In 2010-2011 there was a record number of crowd-management incidents (unrest and peaceful) and the final data for 2011-2012 are likely to show an even higher figure. Already, the number of gatherings involving unrest was higher in 2011-2012 than any previous year. During the past three years, 2009 to 2012, there has been an average of 2.9 unrest incidents a day. This is an increase of 40% over the average of 2.1 unrest incidents a day recorded for 2004-2009. The statistics show that what has been called the "rebellion of the poor" has intensified over the past three years.

The Incident Regulation Information System classifies incidents either as crowd management (peaceful), during which the incident is managed in cooperation with the convenor and the police only monitor the gathering, or as crowd management (unrest), during which the police need to intervene to make arrests or need to use force when there is a risk to safety or possible damage to property. During 2007-2008 to 2009-2010, "the most common reason for conducting crowd management (peaceful) gatherings was labour-related demands for increases in salary or wages". For the same period, the most common reason for "crowd management (unrest) was related to service delivery issues".

The number of arrests that had occurred with crowd management (unrest) gatherings were given as 4 883 (2009-2010), 4 680 (2010-2011), 2967 (April 1 2011 to March 5 2012). These figures give the average number of arrests per unrest gathering as, respectively, 4.8 (2009-2010), 4.8 (2010-2011) and 2.7 (2011-2012).

Gauteng had the largest number of peaceful incidents and the largest number of unrest incidents, but it also has the largest population, so it is not surprising.

Government attempts to improve service delivery have not been sufficient to assuage the frustration and anger of poor people in South Africa. From press reports and our own research, it is clear that although service-delivery demands provide the principal focus for unrest incidents, many other issues are being raised, notably a lack of jobs. Service-delivery protests are part of a broader "rebellion of the poor". This rebellion is massive. South Africa can reasonably be described as the "protest capital of the world". It also has the highest levels of inequality and unemployment of any major country and it is not unreasonable to assume that the rebellion is, to a large degree, a consequence of these phenomena. There is no basis for assuming that the rebellion will subside.

Jacob Zuma celebrated his 70th birthday on Friday where Ngema and Zuma's three wives were on hand to help him cut a R12 500 birthday cake. The Sunday Times said the president's Nkandla homestead had been given a R64-million upgrade that included six new double-storey thatch rondavels for his wives and family

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

DRC blues

In Kinasha, DRC, things have got better for the few. The progress has mostly benefited the narrow elite - the number of new highrises, restaurants, internet cafés and bars is astounding (as are the prices on the menus). For the average citydweller, life has gotten harder, mostly because the cost of living has gone up. There is a big infrastructure improvement in Kinshasa and Lubumbashi ,but the rest of the country has completely been forgotten. For example, in BuKavu and Goma there is a housing boom and villas are spreading up like mushrooms but there is no more paved roads and public hospitals are in decay, even the hotel de ville (city hall) is a rundown building, once you live Kinshasa and Lubumbashi you start to feel that there is no government in the rest of the country.

Widening the gap in standard of living/lifestyle, between have's and have not's, in a country like Congo, can hardly be considered progress.

Another land grab

A prominent Saudi businessman announced last week that the Sudanese government agreed to give his country two million acres of land as a farming investment that would allow the Arab Gulf state to ensure safe and steady food supply.

The chairman of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce Saleh Kamel told the Saudi-based al-Sharq newspaper that the project, if successful, may allow Riyadh to achieve a food surplus that can be exported elsewhere. Kamel disclosed that the Khartoum will make the farmland a free zone that is not subject to any form of taxation or duties and is not covered by Sudanese laws.

"The return [on investment] of agriculture in Sudan will reach 15% of the capital in the first year, a return that is more than good and better than investing in any another business sector" he said.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Plutocracy or Democracy?

It is fact that in many – if not all ‑ countries of the world, the dominant political discourse consists of ideas put forth by the ruling class. This discourse led Karl Marx to argue that in any society, those in charge have the power to propagandise their world-view. The term plutocracy is generally defined as the government by the wealthy and for the wealthy, and is usually used to refer to the rich who control the government ‑ often from behind the scenes. President Abraham Lincoln's that democracy “is a government of the people, by the people, for the people” remains utopian, as a global plutocracy now replaces it. If you believe the US is a democracy, if you believe in the rule of the many and not the rule of the wealthy few, then you will be in for some serious disappointment when you realise that the American model is not designed for the development and upliftment of the majority.

Marx never visited the United States, but nevertheless understood the country, because he understood capitalism. It has become common knowledge that there is no American ideology that is mightier than capitalism. Political scientist Michael Parenti comments; “American capitalism reflects more than just an economic system, it is an entire social and cultural order, a plutocracy, a system that is mostly by and for the rich.”

Equality, justice and the rule of law are all nice, but money speaks the language that all nations and people understand. If you have a lot of money and own a lot of property, then you have the power to propagandise your world-view. It is done to protect and promote your own interests and is the natural progression in the process of accumulation of wealth and exercise of power. As such, any talk of “democracy”, “rule of law” and “human rights” is packaged to promote and protect the interests of the wealthy in their exercise of power. According to EJ Dionne, a columnist in the Washington Post, “Capitalism works for the wealthiest and most powerful in the country, especially if they want to shroud their efforts to influence politics. “It just doesn’t happen to work if you think we are a democracy and not a plutocracy.” There is no way that the US can be interested in genuine democracy because that would fly in the face of the plutocracy they have worked so hard to achieve over the centuries.

In a genuine democracy, the people of any nation freely enjoy the resources that within their borders. Wars are not fomented to get their oil, gold and diamonds from them and they have the right to determine how exactly they use their resources, who they sell them to and what they buy from other countries in return. They are not forced to have particular leaders who are acceptable only to the West and they determine in which direction their leaders should lead them.

Sadly, true democracy is still very far away from visiting this world. Africans peoples must gird their loins and be ready to fight for it.

Extracted from here

Piracy: From Somalia to Senegal?

Recently fishing unions in Senegal in West Africa warned that if unauthorized fishing by foreign trawlers in their waters is not reined in, piracy could take hold in Senegal and it could end up becoming an international threat to shipping like Somalia. The economic losses resulting from pirate attacks in Somalia is estimated at ten billion dollars. The British newspaper Guardian in a detailed article on this topic on April 3 focused on comparing the warnings issued by Senegalese fishers with the past warnings by Somali fishers and it concluded that the current warnings about the influx of Chinese, European and Russian fishing trawlers in North, East and West of Africa should be taken seriously.

The FAO, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, maintains that all the aquatic resources of West Africa have been exploited to the full capacity and even beyond. And currently over one and half million local residents of the region, whose lives depend on these resources, are facing deep economic hardship. Statistics reveal that European fishing vessels catch over 235 thousand tons of fish between the waters of Mauritania and Morocco alone while tens of thousands of tons are also caught with giant nets in the waters of Sierra Leone, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau and other countries.

The origin of piracy in Somalia goes back to the 1990s when the Siad Barre regime fell from power resulting in the disintegration of the navy and coastal guards.

At that time tens of thousands of people whose lives faced dire difficulties due to severe droughts and poverty in Somalia turned to coastal areas and formed fishing communities to provide for their needs and thus fishing became their only means of survival. When civil war broke out in Somalia, foreign fishing vessels began entering Somali waters illegally and catching large volumes of rock-lobster and other warm water fish along the tip of the Horn of Africa. In 2006 Somali fisher-men described the way illegal fishing trawlers not only deplete natural and aquatic resources, they also use various methods to stop local fishers from their activities. According to Somali local fishers, foreigners had torn their nets and made permanent bases for themselves near the coast. Now Senegalese fishers are stating similar statements and saying that catches are already down by 75 percent since 10 years ago because foreign illegal fishers have extensively depleted their aquatic resources and they are very worried about the approach of a big catastrophe.

Somali coastal residents who saw their livelihoods threatened by foreign trawlers took up arms and became a kind of coast guard. This however led to the creation of piracy in these waters. In time, ransom payments to poor fishermen of Somalia by these foreign fishing vessels encouraged the escalation of pirate attacks. Recently a number of local Senegalese fishers have warned that they will attack foreign vessels to protect their vital resources and local economy. They maintain that within the next ten years people will become armed and fishers will go fishing with guns aboard.

Therefore illegal exploitation of the natural resources, degradation of the marine environment, poverty and war created a vicious cycle of corruption, theft and destruction in Somalia and now the same may happen off Senegal waters.

Monday, April 09, 2012


The World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) has pledged support for Nigerian workers in their fight against anti-labour policies of government and private sector employers. Head of Communication Department of WFTU, Alexandra Libeli, expressed this view while addressing a delegation of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) and informal sector workers weekend in Lagos. She reaffirmed the commitment of the federation of trade unions to campaign against imperialism and exploitation of workers under any capitalism rule.

East African Poverty Rises Relentlessly

The number of East Africans living below the poverty line has increased from 44 million to 53 million people, according to a new report. The growth of poverty is more concentrated in slum areas like the one in Uganda's capital Kampala.

Amb Richard Sezibera said: “ Even as leaders and institutions, in both the corporate and political arena, embrace good governance and paying close attention to the dictates of sustainable development, poverty continues to persist.”

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Climate Change in Malawi

Malawi has in the past six years enjoyed maize surpluses yet food production has been on the decline, a climate change study has indicated.

Rainfall distribution in Malawi has become more unpredictable to the extent that it has reduced crop production, Malawi’s Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development hydrologist Henrie Manford Njoloma has disclosed in his research study of over 60 years of rainfall data in the sub Saharan country. “Rainfall distribution is no longer uniform and predictable as it used to be in the past,” he says noting that maize, the country’s staple diet has been drastically affected by the erratic rainfall patterns.

Maize is a highly politicized crop in Malawi because of its nature as a main food crop. As such, government interferes either directly or indirectly in its production and trade at all levels. The private sector also responds sharply whenever there is a maize shortage. Malawi faces food insecurity problems despite having a lot of water resources in sub-Saharan region. It has Lake Malawi, Africa’s third largest lake, which takes up 20% of its land mass and is mostly in the central and northern parts of the country. There are smaller lakes of Chilwa and Malombe in the south and many rivers across the country.

Njoloma observes that despite maize output increasing by 1.8% per annum between 1961 and 1991, the yields have been lower than the 5-year annual average of 2,192,634 metric tons in the first three years, albeit increasing to above the 5-year average in the later years. The hydrologist says that the rainfall pattern in these rainfall seasons were some of the worst, punctuated with many longer than normal dry spells. He also notes that the production of maize per unit area also had increased. Government documents suggest that about 75% of the estimated increase in total production resulted from the expansion in maize area but does not indicate the role of favorable climatic conditions. “Overall, yields appear to have increased at a small but significant rate of 0.4% per year,” says Njoloma adding, “The per capita maize production, however, declined over the past half century as production lagged behind an exponential annual population growth rate of over 3.0%”.

He observes that various water schemes gather dust on the drawing board while less than 1% of the country is irrigated. According to a 2004-2005 Integrated Household Survey (IHS) report, modern methods of irrigation are almost nonexistent in most households in Malawi. “There has been low priority in irrigation agricultural production despite the increased publicity the sector has been given over the past 15 years,” notes the hydrologist urging government to initiate efforts that would ensure that rainfalls into the country’s catchments are looked at to recharge water resources such as wetlands, rivers, dams and lakes. “With the right infrastructure and proper institutions in place, erratic rainfall trends could easily be mitigated and maize grain shortages would be avoided,”