State President Dr. Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera has launched the 2021/2022 Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP), with an impassioned call to Malawians to exercise patience on promises the Tonse Alliance administration made in the run-up to the court-sanctioned June 23 Fresh Presidential Election.
Chakwera has also called for an honest relationship between the government and private sector players in the agriculture sector, lamenting that the “cat and mouse approach we currently have is primitive and needs to be replaced by a real partnership that seeks to deliver value for money to Malawians.”
The AIP launch took place in Chiradzulu on Saturday morning and was attended by traditional authorities, senior government officials, representatives of development partners and a cross-section of the targeted beneficiaries of the programme.
Chakwera said the Tonse Alliance administration is determined to delivering on its promises; and that, citizens should simply give it time.
The President said, for instance, that apart from fulfilling the promise of food security, AIP has also been instrumental in ensuring that we make progress in fulfilling other two promises, namely job creation and wealth creation.
“This is because, for the first time in Malawi’s history, we have made sure the input supply and retailing for the AIP are largely private sector-led. Over the past year, 72 private companies were awarded fertilizer contracts, compared to only two public institutions.
“In the process, over 3000 retail outlets were opened, offering employment and wealth generation opportunities to hundreds of thousands Malawians across the AIP supply chain,” said Chakwera.
The President stated that the launch of the 2021/2022 edition of the programme reaffirms their commitment to the new Malawi the incumbent administration has been proclaiming.
“What we are doing here is keeping our promise to those farmers, parents, and traders, that we would make sure the AIP succeeds again. What we are doing here is defying those who prophesy doom against the AIP without providing an alternative programme that equally guarantees food security for every Malawian. What we are doing here is announcing to the world that the food security we promised is here to stay,” narrated Chakwera.
On this note, the State President challenged the Ministry of Agriculture to work with stakeholders in ensuring that the programme is delivered better, having drawn on lessons from the past year.
He says he expects that the glitches that were experienced last year have been anticipated and addressed in advance.
Chakwera cited poor internet connectivity, poor management of beneficiaries resulting in them waiting in line for long hours or days, poor penetration of hard to reach areas, poor stocking of inputs, and poor accessibility of financing for some companies as some of the glitches that dampened the programme last agricultural season.
“We have to anticipate challenges and provide solutions to them in advance. Panic leadership has no place in the new Malawi we are building. However, what I really want to address today is a serious concern I have observed. There are some in this country who claim that making changes in the implementation of the AIP means that we are no longer fulfilling our promise. But this kind of thinking that resists change is retrogressive.
“Every programme that is designed to serve Malawians goes through changes. Change is not just inevitable, but healthy and necessary. Change is evidence that something is alive and growing,” emphasized Chakwera.
He said the government will always identify the changes that need to be made in order to make the programme better and more sustainable.
He indicated that every year of the implementation of the programme, the government will have to assess if the price of inputs needs to change in response to economic factors while maintaining the goal of making inputs affordable.
Chakwera disclosed that depending on emerging issues such as the state of investments, irrigation, agriculture commercialization, livestock development, and agro processing, more changes will have to be made to the programme.
The President reiterated that his government is seriously considering weaning the farmers off the programme by increasing farmers’ incomes, promotion of commercial market prices after benefiting from the programme and ensuring that projects that maximize the AIP are making progress.
“For instance, earlier this week I was in Liwonde inaugurating the Malawi Fertilizer Company’s Inland Terminal. Shortly, we will be commissioning the Linga Dam in Nkhata Bay with a capacity of 15 million cubic meters of water to be conserved for irrigation and other purposes.
“The Shire Valley Transformation Program is another massive irrigation project that is underway. Such developments will ensure that the AIP is put to optimal use and will change the landscape of the agriculture sector.
“So as far as I am concerned, changes in the AIP over time are a good thing, as long as they are introduced responsibly and consultatively, not haphazardly and unilaterally.
“The most important change that is needed in the AIP is a change in our attitude and behaviour towards farming across the board. We need to change our farming priorities, diversifying our crops and recognizing that not all crops and soils require fertilizer.
“We need to change our institutional attitudes, ensuring that there is coordination between the Ministry of Agriculture and other ministries like Trade and Industries that are critical for adding value to crops and identifying markets for them ahead of time,” narrated Chakwera.
Last year, AIP registered a huge success as millions of farmers testified that they realized bumper harvest.
In the first edition of the AIP, Malawi registered a 21 percent increase in maize production from 3.8 million tons to 4.6 million tonnes.
Agricultural experts said this is the highest recorded maize production figure the country has ever attained and helped in reducing the proportion of households that were not able to meet their annual food requirement by 43 percent.