Malawi is home to about 17 million people, more than 75% of whom are poor (World Bank 2016b). About 11 million Malawians engage in subsistence farming on plot sizes of less than 1 ha (New-ag.info n.d.). Malawi’s 2020 Vision (launched in 1998) identifies agriculture as key to growing the economy and bolstering social development (FAO 2015). The Food Input Subsidy Programme (FISP) is central to this.
The Food Input Subsidy (FISP) Programme was rolled out in 2004 by the late President President Bingu wa Mutharika. We experienced hunger during the former president’s rule. FISP started off well and we were received two bags of fertilizer of 50 kgs, 5 kgs hybrid seeds, 2 kgs legume seeds (beans, soya, and groundnuts) per head that was distributed to subsistence farmers.
From 2008 – 2011 we experienced a surplus of maize and Malawi became a food basket country. We were not affected by climate change during those years. There was food everywhere and Malawians enjoyed and forgot about hunger.
So now instead of talking about the surplus we are talking of hunger. There is hunger in Malawi and we are also looking for the good wishers to help us. The consequences of climate change is among us. Instead of doing adaptation and mitigation we are still promoting FISP. The government still allocates a lot of money to FISP while farmers are suffering because of climate change.
The impact of FISP on rural women farmers
The small scale farmers mostly women are living in poverty. The challenge of FISP is that it brings hybrid seeds to our country and it destroys local seed systems. Female headed household receive a smaller quantity of FISP vouchers than male headed households. It makes the poor to become the poorest and rich to become richest.
As rural women we have engaged the parliamentary committee of the Ministry of Agriculture to change FISP and do universal subsidy. This means that government should remove the taxes they put on fertilizers in order to make it cheaper so that every farmer including women small holder farmers can manage to buy it.
At community level, we are promoting the making of manure to encourage farmers to use manure instead of fertilizer. We also train farmers on the threats of using fertilizers than manure. We promote local seeds in our our seed banks in order to protect our local seed so that it does not get destroyed by the hybrids. We also promote conservation agriculture (soil cover) although it is like that but from 2014 to 2016 we are experiencing the effect of climate change, erratic rainfall (droughts, heavy rains and floods).
*This article was submitted by Alice Kachere. Alice is a small holder farmer from Malawi and a member of NASFAM.