Studies in Malawi
show increasing cases of hunger, despite government claims that it has enough
to feed its people. For the past three years Malawi has registered huge
surpluses of its main food crop, maize. The success is attributed to subsidies it
introduced three years ago for fertilizers and seeds.
The bumper harvest
has also benefited hunger-stricken neighboring countries like Zimbabwe, Lesotho
and Swaziland. Recently president Bingu wa Mutharika, who is also Malawi’s
minister of agriculture, has received international recognition for achieving
food security. But a number of studies show that most Malawians are still
affected by food shortages.
A recent nutritional
survey says approximately 30 percent of Malawi’s rural population consume less than
the 2,200 kilocalories per day, needed to stay healthy. The report says women of
child-bearing age and children under five lack iron, vitamin A, and other
As a result of
malnutrition, half of the country’s children suffer from stunted growth, with
over a third of these children considered dangerously underweight.
Related to this, a
study by the NGO Action Aid International indicates almost half of the
country’s population experience food shortages up to six months a year. It says
most households lack the minimum food requirement of 200kg of maize per person
Chandiwira Chisi is
the man in charge of the anti-hunger effort for Action Aid, “When the
government says that there is progress, it’s in the macro context, that’s to
say if we look at national level, yes, there is food availability in the past
three years [but] that is not enough. I am sure that the government would like
to see the situation where everyone has got food in this country in the right
amounts, right quantities and the right nutritional value.”
He says his
organization has intensified efforts to solve the hunger problem facing most
“Currently we are trying to negotiate with
government so that the voluntary FAO food rights should be legislated to become
enforceable and the country level. So far, we have submitted the “right to
food” bill, in which we have raised issues that would make a difference in
terms of ensuring accountability around issues of food rights, he says”
Primary among those
rights are the rights to own land and have access to food. The parliament has
yet to pass a bill drafted by NGOs that would ensure those rights.
If passed into law,
Chisi says, the legislation would help hold the government, corporations and individual
accountable under certain circumstances, such as lack of political will or
mismanagement leading to a loss of access to food, water, land and seeds.
For its part, the
Malawian government has made a commitment to honor the Millennium Goalswhich
are designed to cut hunger in half by 2015. The country’s blueprint for the
next five years, its Growth Development Strategy, has also put food security as
the number one pillar in the fight against poverty.