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Malawi President Mutharika Honored for Food Security Polices.

Malawi’s president has been honored for his achievements in food security. The Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) has given President Bingu wa Mutharika the first Food Policy Leadership Award for transforming the country from food importer to food exporter. The network coordinates food and agriculture policy in 12 southern African countries. Voice of America English to Africa Service reporter Lameck Masina in Blantyre, Malawi, reports.

The head of the network’s board of directors, Sindiso Ngwenya, said the success of President Mutharika’s food security policies speaks for itself. He said the subsidies program for fertilizers and seeds has enabled the country to feed not only itself, but also its neighbors. Mr. Mutharika also serves as Malawi’s minister of agriculture and food security. In an address to the nation, he said the award was not for himself alone but for all the people of Malawi:

“I am saying this because you can have a bag of fertilizer but on its own can not grow maize. You can have good rains; if the rains can come and go there will not be maize if the people don’t stand up and work hard. And I like to believe that Malawians, you all worked very hard to make sure that we produce what we have. So I am proud to lead the nation of achievers,” he said.

President Mutharika’s efforts have not always enjoyed wide support. The United States and Britain strongly opposed the program. The two countries had refused to fund it. It was created to mitigate one of the worst droughts in a decade – a disaster that left nearly half of the population without food. But Mr. Mutharika insisted, saying the government used its own money for the effort.

The program led to a drop in the price of fertilizers from around US$27 for a 50kg bag to about $7. As a result, maize production more than doubled 2005 to 2006 – and rose sharply again in 2007, leading to a surplus of more than one million metric tons.

The bumper harvest also benefited neighboring countries. Malawi officially exported 40,000 metric tons of maize to Zimbabwe by the end of last December. It also donated five thousand metric tons of maize each to Lesotho and Swaziland.

President Mutharika says he has confidence in the program: “I would like to assure you that a program of subsidy and food security will continue. Malawi will go from strength to strength in providing food for all at affordable prices.”

In July he announced a 20 percent reduction in the cost of fertilizers.

Agriculturists cite other reasons for the success in boosting agriculture.

Mac Leans Makwinja is the crop specialist in the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security.

He says, “Farmers have realized the importance of adopting modern farming techniques. For example, we are advocating the one-one-planting of maize which most farmers have discovered that it is very good method of planting maize."

The method allows farmers to grow one seed per hole instead of three seeds, which is the standard. This, he says eliminates competition for nutrients among the seeds. He also says the ministry has been encouraging farmers to use manure and to plant improved maize varieties that yield more than the local ones.

The annual Food Policy Leadership award was established earlier this year. It has no cash prizes but includes, among other things, a trophy, a signed certificate and some prizes donated by FANRPAN partners.