By Watipaso Mzungu
President Dr. Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera has acknowledged worsening living conditions and poverty of many Malawians, which have come as a result of unprecedented rise in the cost of essential commodities.
But Chakwera was quick to assure Malawians of his government’s commitment to cushioning underprivileged households until the economic situation improves.
The Malawi leader made the remarks in the National Assembly on Friday when he delivered his State of the Nation Address (SONA) to mark the first meeting of the 50th Session of the Parliament of Malawi and the 2023-2024 National Budget.
President Chakwera said he is aware that the economic situation is so harsh that millions are still unable to feed themselves.
He cited the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (MVAC) report, which estimated that in 2020, over 2.6 million people in 581,775 households were determined to be food insecure despite the successes of the Affordable Inputs Programme in 2021.
“Over 1.6 million people in 367, 395 households were still determined to be food insecure, which increased by more than double in 2022. In the past three months alone, my administration has had to support over 3.8 million Malawians in 847,421 households in all three regions of the country with food items or cash to buy food,” he said.
Chakwera assured members of Parliament (MPs) and other guests that attended the function that his government will ensure equal distribution of cash handouts and relief foodstuffs to the starving families, stressing that gone are the days when the government would favour people of a certain region, based on political and electoral considerations, when distributing relief items.
He said his government is pursuing a number of interventions to increase and improve production in order to achieve food sufficiency for all.
Among others, President Chakwera said, the current administration has successfully embarked on mega farms aimed at establishing large production units for increased agricultural production.
He said the government has already established two mega farms in Chipoka, Salima and Nkopola, Mangochi with 200 hectares of maize currently under cultivation in Mangochi and 80 hectares of cotton under cultivation and production in Chipoka.
Additionally, through the Agriculture Commercialisation Project (AGCOM), the government has also allocated US$6 million to the Katunga Maseya Cooperative to invest in a Mega Sugarcane Farm in Chikwawa. It is also worth mentioning that other entities such as the Malawi Prison Services and Malawi Defence Force have established their own mega farms.
“I was saddened, Madam Speaker, when one Member of Parliament from Mulanje came to thank me for ensuring that the people in his constituency who are food insecure had received their allocation of food, for he feared that his constituency would be excluded from the relief because he sits on the opposition side and because he knows that past administrations had a habit of politicizing food and using cycles of hunger for political ends. But that is not the vision I have for the country, and that is not what Malawians want. What Malawians want is for us to become a nation of people who can produce enough to afford to feed themselves without owing anyone here at home or abroad any thanks for it,” he assured.
Lawmakers from the opposition side – led by their Leader of Opposition Kondwani Nankhumwa – are expected to start commenting on the SONA next week.