By CHRISTINE MUNGAI The EastAfrican
Malawi was touted as a success story in Africa’s agriculture narrative.
An intensive farm subsidy starting in 2004 made fertiliser and seed available to farmers at a third of the normal cost, and the results were nearly instantaneous.
In 2005, Malawi harvested a maize surplus of 500,000 tonnes, and soon began exporting food to other countries in the region.
It seemed a “green revolution” was in the making.
But the scheme was opposed by donors who argued that a subsidy programme was against the principles of free markets and was unsustainable; they also criticised the increasing corruption associated with the scheme. Donors withdrew their funding, and by 2011, a sustained forex shortage led to street protests and political instability.
What went wrong?
Today, Malawi has gone from being a food-surplus country to a food-deficit one. What went wrong? Masimba Tarifenyika, editor-in-chief at Africa Renewal, a UN online magazine focusing on Africa, writes that autocracy and dependency on aid killed the scheme, and that “while foreign aid is critical in feeding the hungry and reviving agriculture in Africa, food security is too important to be left to the generosity of external partners.”
Ephraim Mukisira, director of the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, argues that Malawi’s problem was “piecemeal” solutions to the agriculture sector. “If we can have a well-integrated and holistic approach to the challenges facing Kenya’s agriculture sector, then we can avoid going the Malawi way.”