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  • Christine Chumbler
    Hoping for a Better Harvest UN Integrated Regional Information Networks October 23, 2002 Posted to the web October 23, 2002 Johannesburg Crop diversification,
    Message 1 of 2 , Oct 23, 2002
      Hoping for a Better Harvest

      UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
      October 23, 2002
      Posted to the web October 23, 2002

      Johannesburg

      Crop diversification, irrigation and the expansion of a free farm
      input
      scheme for Malawi's subsistence producers are among the measures
      being introduced by the government to boost food output next year.

      "We have embarked on a civic education campaign to teach our people to
      diversify their eating habits and move away from a total dependence on
      maize to tubers for example, and other foods like rice," Commissioner
      for
      Disaster Preparedness Relief and Rehabilitation Lucius Chikuni told
      IRIN.

      He said the government was using social welfare workers in rural
      communities to spread the word on the value of drought-resistant crops
      like cassava over the staple maize, which is sensitive to climatic
      conditions. Most of Malawi's rice, produced along the shores of Lake
      Malawi, is exported to Zambia and Zimbabwe rather than consumed
      locally. Cassava is traditionally eaten in the northern region, but has
      not
      been effectively marketed in the rest of the country.

      Food security in Malawi has been undermined by two poor
      drought-related
      seasons which has left more than 3.3 million in need of aid until next
      year's
      harvest in April/May.

      Although Malawi has an irrigation potential of 800,000 hectares, only
      56,000 hectares have been developed, and of those just 8,000 are in
      the
      hands of small-scale producers as opposed to commercial estate owners.
      "The problem is the poverty factor, our people cannot raise the capital
      for
      irrigation," said Chikuni. "But unless we do something about improving
      irrigation we will not get out of the problem [of low food yields]."

      To that end the government has joined the UN's Food and Agriculture
      Organisation in a project to provide 200,000 treadle pumps to poor
      rural
      families. "It will take US $240 million to address the current food
      crisis. To
      buy 200,000 treadle pumps requires only US $80 million. It's a
      sensible
      investment to make," Chikuni said.

      The government had introduced a free agricultural "starter pack"
      scheme
      in 1998/1999 for rural households, which was scaled down under donor
      pressure to more effectively target the poorest farmers. In response to
      the
      current food crisis, the government intends to pay for the expansion of
      the
      programme to reach an extra one million farm families from the current
      donor-funded two million.

      The starter packs contain enough fertiliser, maize seed and beans to
      cover a modest 0.1 hectares. But according to Chikuni, the expansion
      of
      the programme would allow Malawi to hit a production level of 2.3
      million
      mt of maize which it last achieved in 1999/2000. Domestic food
      consumption needs are 1.8 million mt.

      "We have to run the starter packs for three years to allow people to
      recover from the impact of the famine following two successive bad
      seasons. People need to build up surpluses to earn enough money to pay
      for their own inputs. We certainly don't wish to continue endlessly
      with it,"
      explained Chikuni.

      *****

      Malawi's Government Sets Up Special Loan Scheme

      Business Day (Johannesburg)
      October 23, 2002
      Posted to the web October 23, 2002

      Thom Khanje
      Johannesburg

      UNDER pressure from the public for selling most privatised stateowned
      companies to foreigners, the Malawi government this week launched a
      new initiative aimed at helping more local citizens acquire shares in
      privatised entities.

      The government, which started a donor-prescribed privatisation
      programme in 1996 amid public resentment, has established a collective
      investment scheme called National Investment Trust Limited (NITL)
      through which only Malawians will be offered loans to buy shares in
      state
      owned enterprises.

      The scheme opened a public offer for 40-million shares worth R10m on
      Monday. The offer will run through to November 29 this year, after
      which it
      will be listed on the country's infant stock exchange, which has only
      eight
      listed companies.

      "The initial shareholders will be Malawians but investors will have the
      right
      to sale their shares to other people later," said Jimmy Lipunga,
      Malawi
      Privatisation Commission finance director.

      He said a special loan scheme has been set up, with funds raised from
      previous privatisations, to offer concessional loans to any interested
      Malawian with a formal job or a registered business.

      The loans will attract an interest of 10% in an economy with
      commercial
      lending rates of about 50%. Through the initiative, government will
      reserve
      between 15 to 25% shares in some privatised companies for sale to
      citizens only.

      The scheme has shares in two blue chip commercial banks, a building
      society, a sugar company and several small firms.

      Privatisation was instituted because the state was unable to
      recapitalise
      state-owned enterprises due to budget deficits.

      Malawi accepted International Monetary and World Bank lending
      conditions
      and launched the privatisation programme.

      *****

      Zimbabwe police arrest the nude 'ghost'
      thief
      Harare
      19 October
      2002 11:28

      A thief who disguised himself as a ghost using ash
      and grease and robbed
      foreigners at a prime tourist site in southern
      Zimbabwe has been arrested,
      the Herald newspaper reported Saturday.

      The thief, who worked naked, his body daubed with
      ash, took goods and
      money worth 20-million Zimbabwe dollars ($360 000)
      over a four-year period
      from tourists to the Great Zimbabwe monument, an
      ancient stone-walled
      citadel.

      "Some tourists even formulated theories that the
      'ghost' was the godfather of
      the monuments, angry with the constant visit of
      foreigners," the paper said.

      Police ended the bogus bogeyman's lucrative spree
      last week when they
      raided his home in Masvingo, 292 kilometres south of
      Harare, the Herald
      reported. - Sapa-AFP
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