Malawi: Vulnerable small-scale farmers prioritized in the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (by Mark Ndipita, for Farm Radio Weekly in Malawi)

| January 24, 2011

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Sixty-five-year-old Thenson Kamangira looks relaxed in his black trousers and blue shirt. He gazes at the seed packs and bags of fertilizer he has just purchased through Malawi’s Farm Inputs Subsidy Programme. Then he walks into his house to look at the previous year’s maize harvest. He smiles in anticipation of another good season.

Mr. Kamangira is a small-scale farmer from Kaledzera village, south of Nsanje district in southern Malawi. He grew sorghum on his two and a half hectares of land for over two decades.  Sorghum was not his first choice, but without inputs he could not grow maize and legumes. He says, “For 25 years I could not raise enough money to buy farm inputs such as fertilizer and seed. This forced me to grow sorghum, which can do well without fertilizer.”

Mr. Kamangira says his family was hungry every year he grew sorghum.  “On average, each year I was harvesting six 50-kilogram bags of sorghum from my piece of land. These bags made my family food insecure since they could not last for six months.”

Dr. Andrew Daudi is Principal Secretary of Agriculture and Food Security in Malawi. He recently announced that during the 2010/11 growing season, more than a million and a half small-scale farmers will benefit from government-subsidized maize fertilizer, maize seed, and legume seed. He says that the subsidy program will give consideration to vulnerable farmers such as the elderly, HIV-positive farmers, child-headed households and the physically challenged. Dr. Daudi says the aim of the program is to increase resource-poor smallholder farmers’ access to agricultural inputs.

This is the sixth season that the Government of Malawi has implemented the country-wide subsidy program. One hundred and sixty thousand metric tonnes of subsidized maize fertilizer were made available this year. . In addition, the Government subsidized 8,500 metric tonnes of improved maize seed and 3,200 metric tonnes of legume seed. With the subsidy, a 50-kilogram bag of fertilizer costs just over three US dollars.

Mr. Kamangira has qualified for the Farm Input Subsidy Programme for the last two years because of his age. He thanks the government for prioritizing vulnerable farmers: “I am glad that government has come to rescue the elderly by giving us an opportunity to buy inputs at subsidized prices. I no longer beg food because last season I harvested enough maize for my family.”

Mr. Isaac Alufandika is another farmer who will benefit from the subsidy program this year. He qualifies because he is physically challenged, and head of his household. Mr. Alufandika is from Jimu village in Nsanje district. He says he has no income to buy commercial fertilizer and seed: “Unlike the able-bodied people, it is very difficult for me to do work that can generate money. In the past I had been relying on manure. But this season, I will also use fertilizer and I am anticipating that my yield is going to increase.”

Mrs. Lucia Smart is HIV-positive, and head of her household.  She is also from Jimu village. For the first time this growing season, she has benefitted from the subsidy. She is excited that her family will be able to buy subsidized inputs. She explains, “I and my husband are on antiretroviral treatment and we need to eat enough food. This subsidy program will help us to be food secure and be able to take care of ourselves.”