- With Millions Facing Food Shortages, Lilongwe Looks for Long-Term Solutions
Future Harvest (Washington, DC)
June 27, 2002
Posted to the web June 28, 2002
Planting Trees on Farms Expected to Improve Soil Fertility, Boost Crop Production
Makoka, Malawi - As this nation of 10 million people faces its most serious food crisis in recent memory, government officials are encouraging farmers to plant trees as part of a long-term effort to improve soil fertility and increase food supplies.
This year, Malawi faces a 700,000-ton shortfall in grain production, much of which will be made up by foreign food aid. Even so, development experts predict wide scale hunger. An estimated 65 percent of all Malawians live in poverty and survive on less than a half dollar per day.
All of Malawi will be hard hit, including the central part of the country, the nation's traditional breadbasket area," predict Future Harvest scientists working with the International Centre for Research in Agroforestry, ICRAF, in Nairobi, Kenya.
"The conditions that led to food shortages are directly linked to the quality of Malawi's soils," says Andreas Böhringer, ICRAF's Development Leader for Southern Africa. "If you can boost soil fertility, the country should be able to meet most of its food needs relatively quickly," he says.
Attempts to improve Malawi's soils in the past, however, have fallen short of that goal. Throughout the 1990s, government provided farmers with subsidized fertilizer and seed, a practice that temporarily increased food production but eventually collapsed because of the high cost.
"The sad fact is that Malawian farmers remove far more plant nutrients and organic matter from the soil than they can possibly put back," says economist Per Pinstrup-Andersen.
"Its not that they are unaware, but being a land-locked country makes it difficult to supply them with fertilizer. Moreover, when fertilizer is available, its probably too expensive," he says.
Cultural practices, including the expansion of agroforestry and the planting of nitrogen-fixing trees, can remedy the situation by helping rural people do a better job of managing natural resources and increasing farm income, he adds. Pinstrup-Andersen is director general of the International Food Policy Research Institute, a Future Harvest think tank based in Washington, DC.
Trees on Farms
"Virtually the only people who are not suffering from this year's food shortages are farmers who use agroforestry, the practice of planting trees on farms," adds Böhringer.
Approximately 22,000 Malawian farm families have been trained in agroforestry techniques and are managing to feed their families, a development that has not escaped the attention of the country's Ministry of Agriculture and foreign aid donors. Maize farmers who practice agroforestry, Böhringer notes, usually produce anywhere from two to four times more than the national average.
The United States Agency for International Development recently awarded $600,000 to ICRAF increase the number of farmers trained in agro-forestry over a two-year period. The goal is to reach 100,000 farm families by 2004.
High Rates of Return
"USAID's contribution may not seem like a great deal of money if you consider the enormity of the challenge in Malawi, but then the rate of return on an investment in agroforestry can be extremely high," says ICRAF Director General Dennis Garrity.
ICRAF economists estimate the cost of training and equipping one farm family to practice agroforestry at about US $2.50. Roughly 40 percent of the nation's farm families, they calculate, could be practicing agroforestry by 2005 at cost of about $10 million.
"That's a one-time investment," Garrity adds. "Subsidized fertilizer and seed distribution schemes cost millions and go on and on, year after year." Different Places, Different Systems
Agroforestry is practiced in different ways, depending upon local farming conditions and population density. In some cases, trees are planted in fields that the farmer decides to leave fallow, in essence giving the soil a chance to rest. In others, trees are planted with crops, either side by side or in rotations.
One thing that many agroforestry systems have in common is the planting of fast-growing trees that take nitrogen from the air and deposit it in the soil. Some of these trees have nitrogen-fixing root systems, which also allows the plant to store nitrogen in the branches and leaves. The young trees are cut, chopped, and mixed into the soil, just prior to planting food crops, thereby building up organic matter and adding nutrients. As long as the trees are growing, they capture nitrogen that the farmer would otherwise have to purchase in the form of fertilizer.
"There's an agroforestry option for almost any situation or location," says Böhringer, and not all trees used in agroforestry are there to improve the soil, he says. "One of our priorities is to help farmers earn cash from their trees, either by producing fruits for the market or by turning out medicinal products.
One such medicinal tree is Prunus Africanus. An effective prostate disease remedy popular in Europe, "Prunus" is now considered an endangered species because of over-harvesting, a problem ICRAF scientists are working to remedy. ICRAF scientists note that efforts are underway to encourage farmers to grow a domesticated form of tree as a source of cash income in the hope of halting non-sustainable harvesting in forest areas.
Mozambique cries out for level playing field
28 June 2002 10:20
Mozambique wants rich nations to stop giving their farmers subsidies so
that African food goods can can compete fairly on the world market,
Mozambique's Industry and Commerce Minister said on Thursday.
"Each cent given as a subsidy to a farmer in a developed nations leads to a
loss of many cents by farmers in our countries, deepening poverty as a
result," said Carlos Morgado at a forum of business leaders from
Portuguese-speaking nations in Lisbon.
Morgado said the subsidies granted farmers in wealthier nations eliminated
the natural competitive advantage African nations have in the production of
various agricultural goods.
His comments came as EU farm ministers met in Luxembourg on Thursday
to mull changes to the European Union's Common Agricultural Policy, which
pays out some 40-billion euros ($39,4-billion)a year in subsidies to farmers.
The European Commission is expected to unveil on July 10 proposals to
revise the policy, including reductions in direct farm subsidies.
But with the Bush administration set to raise by $190-billion over 10 years
its subsidies to US farmers, Brussels has indicated it can not eliminate farm
EU Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler said in an interview published
Tuesday in German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung "without aid,
European farming would be devoured by international competition".
Last year the EU farm budget totaled 43,6-billion euros, of which 9,4-billion
euros went to French farmers, and 6,8-billion euros to Spain.
Another 6,2-billion euros were distributed for German farmers, four billion
euros for their British counterparts, and 1,1-billion euros in the Netherlands.
Cholera outbreak hits Mozambique
28 June 2002 12:37
At least 48 people have died in a fresh outbreak of cholera that has infected
about 3 000 people in Mozambique's northern Cabo Delgado province, an
official said Friday.
New cholera outbreaks have hit the coastal districts of Macomia and
Mocimboa da Praia, and the provincial capital Pemba, deputy national
health director Avertino Barreto said.
Macomia has seen the highest death toll at 29, with another 16 in
Mocimboa da Praia and three in Pemba, he said.
But Barreto said Mocimboa da Praia town and the surrounding area required
more attention because of its poor water supply.
No new cases of the water-borne disease have been reported elsewhere in
this southeastern African state, where cholera is endemic with more
outbreaks usually during the rainy season.
In the last two years, hundreds of people have died of cholera in southern
and central Mozambique following catastrophic floods.
This year, Mozambique faces drought instead, along with neighboring
Lesotho, Malawi, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Meanwhile, Mozambique has issued an alert for meningitis, which is also
endemic here, particularly in Cabo Delgado and neighboring Nampula
The last major outbreak of meningitis was four years ago, when 5 000
people caught the disease and 300 died. - Sapa-AFP
African politicians 'undermine the
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
28 June 2002 10:50
African political parties are to blame for the slow growth of multi-party
democracy on the continent, top Kenyan minister and ruling party official
Raila Odinga said on Thursday night.
"All political parties -- the ones in power as well as those in the opposition --
have contributed to a fair share in undermining the democratisation process,
Raila said in a paper delivered at a two-day regional conference on good
governance and politics.
"Relations between government and opposition parties in Africa are often
characterised by rancour, acrimony and outright hostility.
"Ruling parties often adopt a posture of crude majority, while the opposition
takes the posture of obstruction," said Odinga, Kenya's energy minister and
ruling Kenya African National Union (KANU) party secretary general.
Odinga also told the conference, which ends in the Tanzanian capital on
Friday, that other factors inhibiting development of multiparty democracy in
Africa included scarcity of resources, institutional weakness, and shaky
He said it was all too common in Africa to find young adults and women
being marginalised outside the political mainstream.
Odinga, whose party -- the National Democractic Party (NDP) -- merged
with the ruling KANU on March 18, said the major role of African opposition
parties was to show there were alternatives to existing governments.
The conference, organised by the Eastern and Southern African Universities
Research Programme (ESAURP), has attracted delegates from Botswana,
Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania,
Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. - Sapa-AFP
ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract
by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:09:17
The African Development Bank (ADB) has again rejected a proposal by government to look for another contractor instead of China Hunan Construction to construct of the long awaited Karonga/Chitipa road.
China Hunan from Mainland China won the bid which was approved by the ADB but government later wanted to award the contract to a Portuguese firm, Mota Engil, the second lowest bidder, claiming China Hunan's bid was unrealistically low and that the company had very little experience in Africa.
Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe confirmed on Sunday the ADB rejected the proposal at a meeting held between the bank and Malawi government in Tunisia last week.
The Malawi government wanted the Tunisia meeting to authorise it to get another contractor for the road, said Gondwe.
"They did not allow us to look for another contractor because of their regulations. But we are about to get another alternative for Karonga/Chitipa and I would be surprised if it does not start before end June," said Gondwe.
The minister explained that the bank insisted that regardless of the unrealistic cost estimates, China Hunan should be allowed to go ahead with the construction.
But Gondwe could not give further details about the alternatives, arguing there are still a few loose ends to tighten up before disclosing it.
The problem with China Hunan, according to Gondwe, is that it would require more money to meet the total cost of the project.
This paper reported last week that government met Taiwanese representatives where they offered to fund the road if the ADB continued to reject its favoured contractor, Mota Engil.
Gondwe could neither confirm nor deny the reports on the Taiwanese offer, saying government was looking at a number of ways to handle the issue.
According to Gondwe, the China Hunan's bid was 24 percent lower than the consulting engineers' estimates of K7.9 billion and 34 percent below the second lowest bidder.
President Bingu wa Mutharika laid a foundation stone for the construction of the road this year ahead of a crucial byelection in Chitipa in December last year.
The President's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won the Chitipa Wenya constituency by-election that fell vacant following the collapse and subsequent death of Speaker of Parliament Rodwell Munyenyembe who belonged to the UDF.
Last week, police and the District Commissioner (DC) for Chitipa stopped a rally that was aimed at soliciting people's views about development projects in the district.
The meeting, which was reportedly organised by Concerned Citizens of Chitipa, was among other things also supposed to tackle the controversial Karonga/Chitipa road.
The project failed to start off in 2000 when a contract for an initial loan of US$17 million and US$15 million from the Taiwanese government was signed, with some quarters claiming the Bakili Muluzi administration diverted the money to another road.
Chihana operated on
by Edwin Nyirongo, 22 May 2006 - 06:32:31
Alliance for Democracy (Aford) president Chakufwa Chihana, who is in South Africa receiving treatment, had a brain operation on Friday at Garden City Clinic, family and party officials confirmed on Sunday.
Aford national chairman Chipimpha Mughogho said he was told by the family members that Chihana had a successful operation on Friday and was put in an intensive care unit.
Mughogho said Chihana, who initially complained of headache, was found with a brain tumour which South African doctors removed.
Mzimba West MP Loveness Gondwe said Aford boss condition was stable.
"Hon. Chihana had a major operation and after that he was put in the intensive care unit but his condition is stable. I do not know where he was operated on but it had something to do with the skull," she said.
Deputy Information Minister John Bande referred the matter to the Health Minister Hetherwick Ntaba who was reported to be in Geneva, Switzerland.
Aford publicity secretary Norman Nyirenda said when Chihana's situation got worse, the family alerted the Office of the President and Cabinet who took him to Mwaiwathu Private Hospital.
"The doctors at Mwaiwathu advised that he should be sent to South Africa and they even identified the doctor for him," he said.
He said the costs are being met by the Malawi government, contradicting his earlier statement that his boss covered the cost.
Mughogho is now in charge of the party.
Gondwe will be a busy person when Parliament starts meeting on June 6 as she is the only Aford MP remaining.
Pillane proposes presidential age limit
by Emmanuel Muwamba , 22 May 2006 - 06:34:13
A member of the DPP National Governing Council Abdul Pillane on Saturday urged members of political parties and the civil society to put an upper age limit in the Constitution for presidential candidates.
Pillane was addressing members of political parties and civil society in Liwonde during a two-day follow up workshop to the National Conference on the Review of Constitution held in March in Lilongwe.
"My view is that (an upper) age limit should be at 75. We have to give a chance to younger people to lead because in circumstance, when you age you become forgetful especially when sickly," said Pillane. "Overall, chances should be given to young people."
But UDF secretary general Kennedy Makwangwala, whose party members agitated for the age limit during presentations, played the issue down.
"I feel there is no logic to have an upper age limit for presidential candidates. If someone is 90 or 80 I don't know how that can influence the electorate not to vote for someone who is younger, I don't see any logic behind that," said Makwangwala.
MCP participants at the workshop also vehemently objected to the proposal.
MCP vice president Nicholas Dausi in an interview said: "There is no constitution in Africa which stipulates an upper age limit. So it would be strange in Malawi to have an upper age limit for presidential candidates."
MDP President Kamlepo Kalua also opposed the need to have an upper age limit.
"If we have personalities in mind that we want to discriminate against then it is unfortunate. The constitution we want to build is a guiding document for future generations and it should not bar certain individuals on the basis of grudges," he said.
The Malawi Law Constitution Issues Paper of March 2006 says several submissions that were received put an upper presidential age limit in the Constitution.
"It is argued that it is common sense that mental knowledge faculties tend to fail with age. As regards what the actual age limit should be the submissions are far from being agreed. The range is from 60 years to 80 years," read submissions in the Issues Paper.
On whether MPs should double as ministers, Kalua said this should be the case.
Makwangwala also said it is not right for MPs to serve as ministers because the Legislature, another arm of government, is reduced while the Executive branch is beefed up from another arm of government.
"There is no separation of powers when MPs double as ministers," said Makwangwala.
But Pillane said there is no problem for MPs to work as ministers as well, saying MPs are elected by the President.
"One can serve both posts. There have been no problems before for people to double," said Pillane.
The Centre for Multiparty Democracy funded the workshop through the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy.
The objective was to come up with a collective position on the Issues Paper which will be presented to the Special Law Commission that will be constituted soon.
Mussa hails new driving licence
by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:58:52
Transport and Public Works Minister Henry Mussa last week said the design of the Malawi-Sadc driving licence would guard against forgery and ensure that only skilled and legitimate drivers of particular vehicles are licensed.
Mussa was speaking at the official launch of the licences in Lilongwe where he announced that traffic police would from July enforce speed limits and sober driving using Breathalysers which his ministry is in the process of procuring.
The minister said financial constraints are the reason for the delay in procuring the equipment but assured that by July they would be available.
"With the new equipment, the days of those who believe in the thrill of drink and driving are numbered," warned Mussa.
Mussa added that with the new licence, government is optimistic that the country's roads would be safe.
Acting Director of Road Traffic James Chirwa said the features that distinguish the new from the old licences are the Malawi national flag and a ghost image of the driver's photograph, among others.
Those with old licences, according to Chirwa, are expected to get the new ones after the expiry of the former.
UDF demands investigation on Kasambara
by Rabecca Theu, 22 May 2006 - 06:30:46
The United Democratic Front (UDF) has asked government to investigate Ralph Kasambara on allegations of abuse of office while he was attorney general.
UDF publicity secretary Sam Mpasu told the press Sunday that the party is neither amused or saddened by the removal of the former AG but asked government to institute investigations on Kasambara.
"Beyond the removal of the Attorney General, we now urge President Mutharika to institute investigation against Mr Kasambara into allegations that have made rounds in the public domain during the recent past. These include: Mrs Helen Singh and SS Rent-a-Car; SGS and ITS saga; ...........the use of Malawi Police Service in the arrest of three Chronicle journalists and the handling of Mrs Rubina Kawonga," said Mpasu.
Mpasu also accused Kasambara of awarding government contracts to Lawson and Company where he was a senior partner.
"We urge government to thoroughly investigate the former AG. We also ask government to cautiously select the new AG ," said Mpasu, who was accompanied by the party's Secretary General Kennedy Makwangwala, leader of the party in Parliament George Mtafu, chief whip Leonard Mangulama and a member of the executive Hophmally Makande.
But Minister of Information Patricia Kaliati said UDF should give offer its advice to the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB).
"They should advise bodies like the Anti-Corruption Bureau to conduct the investigations and why are they saying this now? Is it because Kasambara has been fired? This is not a personal issue. If they have other pressing issues they should just say so. These arguments should have come up earlier on when the said cases were happening," she said.
Kasambara asked UDF to proceed with the mission of urging government to investigate him.
"They can do their job. Everyone has a right to lobby for anything they want in the country. UDF has a right to do that, let them go ahead," he said.
Kasambara was relieved of his duties as AG by the President last week. Government has not given reasons behind the removal.
Zambia: Malawians Grab Zambian Land
The Times of Zambia (Ndola)
May 18, 2006
Posted to the web May 19, 2006
MALAWIANS who have encroached on both the 'no-man's' and part of the Zambian land at the Mwami border in Eastern Province have plucked out some beacons that were used in the demarcation of the border.
The Malawians are now using the beacons as stools in their newly-established villages on Zambian land.
Eastern Province Minister, Boniface Nkhata, said in Chipata yesterday that if the situation was not controlled urgently, Zambia would lose huge tracts of land to Malawians migrating into Zambian in large numbers.
A check at the Zambia-Malawi border showed a number of beacons had been vandalised and new structures constructed on the 'no man's' land and a large portion of Zambian land.
Mr Nkhata said the trend extended to many parts of the province bordering the two countries.
"A large portion of Zambian land has been taken up by the Malawians starting from the Chama boundary up to the Mwami border.
"The weighbridge at the Mwami border was initially in Zambia from the time both countries gained independence from Britain, but now the bridge is on Malawian soil," Mr Nkhata said.
The minister, who is former Chama District Commissioner, said there was similar encroachment in Lundazi and Chama districts where Zambia shares a boundary with Malawi.
He said a Malawian farmer identified as Mr Mfune had cultivated 71.5 hectares on Zambian land and employed about 265 Malawian workers.
"Khombe Farm in Chama district in Kanyerere's area, along the Muyombe road which leads to Northern Province where this Malawian farmer has cultivated a vast land is on the Zambian territory," he said.
Workers on the farm admitted that they were farming on Zambian soil but could not go back to Malawi because the land in that country was inadequate for cultivation.
Mr Nkhata appealed to the ministry of Lands to urgently release money for the demarcation of the Zambia-Malawi border to avoid further land disputes between the two countries.
Meanwhile, the Immigration Department in Livingstone has arrested a couple and another man, all Zimbabweans, for working in Zambia without permits.
They were arrested at Gwembe village yesterday where they worked for Into Africa, a tour operating company that provides bush dinners and breakfast.
According to the Immigration Department in Livingstone, the trio entered Zambia through the Victoria Falls border as visitors but decided to work for the company illegally.
Last week, immigration officers arrested 10 Zimbabwean traders and six Ethiopians for entering and staying in Zambia illegally.
The Zimbabwean traders were warned and cautioned and later released.
The Ethiopians were arrested at Konje Guest House when they ran out of money to proceed to Botswana.
Zim unions, MDC still plan anti-govt protests
22 May 2006 11:51
Zimbabwe's biggest labour federation on Saturday threatened to call massive demonstrations against the government over poor salaries and worsening living conditions for workers in the country.
The threats are ratcheting up pressure against President Robert Mugabe's government after similar threats by the biggest opposition party in the country, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), about two months ago.
Speaking at the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) conference on Saturday, the labour body's president, Lovemore Matombo, said the powerful union wants the government to award workers salaries that match the country's ever-rising inflation.
"I can assure you we will stage massive demonstrations to force them [employers] to award workers minimum salaries that tally with the poverty datum line," said Matombo.
Matombo did not say when exactly the ZCTU would order workers to strike.
Meanwhile, the MDC on Sunday said it will push ahead with plans for anti-government protests, saying victory in a key by-election at the weekend was a "sign the electorate supported its policies", including democratic mass resistance.
A spokesperson of the main faction of the splintered MDC, Nelson Chamisa, said victory over Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF and a rival MDC faction in a Saturday by-election in Harare's Budiriro constituency is a sign Zimbabweans still have confidence in party leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his policies.
Tsvangirai, the founding leader of the MDC, heads the main rump of the opposition party whose candidate, Emmanuel Chisvuure, polled 7 949 votes to win the Budiriro House of Assembly seat.
Gabriel Chaibva of the other faction of the MDC, led by prominent academic Arthur Mutambara, garnered 504 votes while Zanu-PF's Jeremiah Bvirindi polled 3 961 votes.
"This election showed that the electorate still has confidence in the MDC [Tsvangirai-led] leadership and its policies," Chamisa told independent news service ZimOnline.
He added: "We will now move to consolidate our position * we still believe in mass protests. Until we have attained our goals we see no reason why we should abandon [plans for protests]."
Tsvangirai has threatened to call mass protests this winter against Mugabe and his government. He says the mass protests, whose date he is still to name, are meant to force Mugabe to relinquish power to a government of national unity to be tasked to write a new and democratic Constitution that would ensure free and fair elections held under international supervision.
Mugabe and his government, who had hoped for victory in Budiriro to show they were recapturing urban support from a splintered MDC, have not taken idly the opposition's threats to call mass protests, with the veteran president warning Tsvangirai he would be "dicing with death" if he ever attempted to instigate a Ukraine-style popular revolt in Zimbabwe.
In a fresh crackdown against dissension, the police last week arrested several church and civic leaders for organising public prayers and marches to mark last year's controversial home-demolition exercise by the government.
The police also banned the marches and prayers, fearing they could easily turn into mass protests against Mugabe and his government.
However, the marches went ahead in the second-largest city of Bulawayo after organisers had obtained a court order barring the police from stopping the march.
Political analysts say although Zimbabweans have largely been cowed by Mugabe's tactics of routinely deploying riot police and the military to crush street protests, worsening hunger and poverty are fanning public anger that Tsvangirai -- with proper planning and organisation -- could easily manipulate.
Zimbabwe is in the grip of a severe six-year old economic crisis that has seen inflation breaching the 1 000% barrier. Last year, the World Bank said Zimbabwe's economic crisis was unprecedented for a country not at war.
The MDC and major Western governments blame Mugabe for wrecking the country's economy, which was one of the strongest in Africa at independence from Britain 26 years ago.
Mugabe denies the charge blaming the crisis on sabotage by Britain and her allies after he seized white-owned farms for redistribution to landless blacks six years ago.
The Harare authorities recently hiked salaries for civil servants, with the lowest-paid soldier now earning about Z$27-million while the lowest-paid school teacher now takes home about Z$33-million.
But the salaries are still way below the poverty datum line, which the government's Consumer Council of Zimbabwe says now stands at a staggering Z$42-million a month for an average family of six.
The Zimbabwe government often accuses the ZCTU, a strong ally of the MDC, of pushing a political agenda to remove Mugabe from power.
Meanwhile, Matombo and Lucia Matibenga retained their posts as president and first vice-president respectively during the ZCTU congress that ended on Saturday. -- ZimOnline