Monday, January 18, 2016

Prayer won't help

On Saturday January 10, President Peter Mutharika led Malawians in national prayers for the rains at a ceremony held in the capital, Lilongwe.

Since El Nino hit, Malawi has experienced no rain for at least three weeks, leaving people in despair and in fear of going hungry again this year. Malawi has only one rainy season which begins in November and ends in April. When El Nino hit, most people had planted their maize (the country’s staple food) while others had even applied fertiliser.

El Niño is a prolonged warming in the Pacific Ocean sea surface temperatures when compared with the average temperature. A typical definition is a 3-month average warming of at least 0.5 Celsius in a specific area of the east-central tropical Pacific Ocean. Generally, this happens at irregular intervals from two to seven years, and lasts nine months to two years. The average period length is five years.

It is estimated that about 2.8 million people in the country are in need of food aid following last season’s dry spell and floods, according to a report by the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee.

Furthermore, many households have failed to purchase fertiliser under the government’s Farm Input Subsidy Programme (FISP) following an increase in the price of the fertiliser. This has left the poor farmers even more vulnerable as they cannot afford to either re-plant their gardens or re-apply fertilizer when the rains eventually come. The current economic status of high inflation and interest rates has further reduced people’s buying power. Most people are failing to buy a bag of maize which vendors are selling at between about 15 dollars and 18 dollars per 50kg bag. At the official government market Admarc, it is priced at about 16 cents a kilo.

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