- Maize production in Malawi this growing season has increased 27 compared to last year, according to the final round of crop production estimates for 2003 published by Malawi's Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Food Security. Also most other crops had seen production increases.
This year's national food security prospects thus are seen to be much more favourable than last year's, due to the increase in crop production and the government's large carryover stocks - made to prevent another year of food crisis.
Maize is the country's main staple food, grown and consumed everywhere in the country. Maize, therefore, is one of the main determinants of food security at the national level, according to the last Malawi report by the US agency Famine Early Warning Systems (FEWS).
The final figures for this year put maize production at 1,983,440 tons, up by 27 percent from last year's production of 1,556,975 tons. The increase was said to be due to a 5 percent increase in overall yield, attributed to an increase in the uptake of fertilizer, and a 21 percent increase in area planted, attributed to an increase in seeds, made available by the government.
The Malawian government had scaled up its free distribution programme of fertilizer and seeds from 1 million beneficiaries in the 2001/02 season to around 3 million beneficiaries in the 2002/03 season. In addition, the government had also intensified free input distribution to farmers for winter maize and other crops.
- The increase in maize production is good news for Malawi after the past two years of food security problems and subsequent reliance on food aid, the FEWS report said. "However, given that last year was a bad production season, an increase in production over last year does not necessarily indicate that this is a particularly good year." Calculations however set this year's production as well above average.
Also the production of cassava in Malawi had grown significantly this year. Cassava production is around 1,735,065 tons this year, up 13 percent from 1,540,183 tons last year. Cassava production is however not nationwide, localised especially in areas along the northern lakeshore. Of late though, Malawian farmers have increasingly taken on cassava as both a food and a cash crop.
Cassava however was said to be of minor importance for food security in Malawi. Experience had shown that movement of cassava from surplus to deficit areas was limited compared to maize, "which partly explains why some areas can still suffer from local food shortages despite high national cassava production figures," FEWS held.
While maize and cassava production had been above normal levels, rice production however had decreased with about 4 percent this growing season. Especially in the traditional rice growing area of Karonga in the far north, production had dropped by an estimated 50 percent due to drought.
- This will likely affect the food security situation in the area as rice is one of local households' staple foods, along with maize, cassava and plantains, FEWS assumed. Karonga is one of the very few areas in the country where food production and consumption is diversified.
On a national level, however, the increase in production combined with large maize carryover stocks by government suggested that the country most likely had a food surplus this year. The price of maize has dropped significantly on most Malawian markets and food security in general was said to be good this year.
Maize prices continue to fall in most local markets as harvesting of maize reached the peak. Average local market maize prices in June 2003 ranged from as low as kwacha 6.45/kg to kwacha 15.58/kg compared to a range of kwacha 11.65/kg to kwacha 25.03/kg at the same time last season.
afrol News - It is called "financial inclusion", and it is a key government policy in Rwanda. The goal is that, by 2020, 90 percent of the population is to have and actively use bank accounts. And in only four years, financial inclusion has doubled in Rwanda.
afrol News - The UN's humanitarian agencies now warn about a devastating famine in Sudan and especially in South Sudan, where the situation is said to be "imploding". Relief officials are appealing to donors to urgently fund life-saving activities in the two countries.
afrol News - Fear is spreading all over West Africa after the health ministry in Guinea confirmed the first Ebola outbreak in this part of Africa. According to official numbers, at least 86 are infected and 59 are dead as a result of this very contagious disease.
afrol News - It is already a crime being homosexual in Ethiopia, but parliament is now making sure the anti-gay laws will be applied in practical life. No pardoning of gays will be allowed in future, but activist fear this only is a signal of further repression being prepared.
afrol News / Africa Renewal - Ethiopia's ambitious plan to build a US$ 4.2 billion dam in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, 40 km from its border with Sudan, is expected to provide 6,000 megawatts of electricity, enough for its population plus some excess it can sell to neighbouring countries.