Policies to successfully tackle poverty in Malawi

The Malawi  which is located in South East Africa with a population of 18m is one of the poorest countries on the planet and since the  GDP  per  capita  for the vast majority of the inhabitants is less than $2 per day while a population of 6,7 million people is receiving humanitarian aid to survive.

Most of the country’s population is employed in the agricultural sector, but the conditions of the cultivation of fields over time are becoming increasingly difficult since the frequency of satisfactory rainfall days decreases continuously.

The result of this is that the arable fields do not perform as in the past so that the production not only is not enough to be sold in order to provide profit-income to the farmer but is not enough to feed the whole family of the farmer.

by Thanos S. Chonthrogiannis

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Flag of Malawi
license Public Domain

The causes of the inefficiency of arable land

The fact that the period of rainfall has shrunk and has at the same time moved through time starting from the beginning of October and until the end of November creates “Confucius development” in the crops. At the same time there are many days when rainfall is minimal in water volume-not enough to “quench” the cultivated areas and there are periods of heavy rainfall causing flooding by destroying crops.

The drought periods as opposed to rainfall periods are increasing dramatically by destroying all those crops that are not resistant to prolonged periods of drought. Most of the rural population in the country cultivates maize.

At the same time the livestock population of the country suffers as prolonged periods of drought and short periods of rainfall reduce the ability of animals to feed (they cannot find proper food) and quench their thirst to a satisfactory degree respectively. This reduces the population of animals characterised as livestock in the active level.

On the other hand, there are no in satisfactory degree natural water tanks and since the lake Chilwa (South-East Malawi) which was the second largest lake in Malawi after Lake Malawi was completely wiped out in 1968. Forcing since then many fishermen who lived from the lake either to change occupation or to move as fishermen for their livelihood in the great Lake Malawi.

Lake Malawi (Lake Nyasa),
Photo by NASA
licensed Public Domain

Additional problems that burden the yields of agricultural corps  

A growing population of citizens necessarily leads to smaller distributed agricultural crop sizes per inhabitant/family. The average size of a cultivated area today in Malawi is less than one hectare when to have a satisfactory harvest, the average size of the agricultural area must be closed to 1-1.5 hectare.

In many areas of the country arable soils have been saturated due to intensive cultivation and possibly the wrong practices applied. A World Bank survey shows that more than 40% of Malawi ‘s arable land has a PH<7 (acidic soil), resulting in maize crops not performing satisfactorily. In fact, the farmers of Malawi because of this cause cannot achieve more than 40% of the actual yield of their crops to maize.

Policies that should be implemented to “skyrocket” production

1. The fact that the population in the country is growing has nothing to do with underdevelopment as a cause and as they want to use to say all the ignorant of the planet as an excuse to characterize the countries of the Third World in general. If every family chooses to have many children, it has to do with the economic advantage that they see that parents earn from this action/decision.

This economic advantage translates on one side to more hands available for crops (more labour force) since there are no modern machines to be used in crops. On the other hand, more children-adults in the future-means more hands for care to parents when parents get older and since there are no such services provided by the state to the elderly.

As the Malawi government invests only a few resources in education, health or housing, the cost of obtaining and maintaining a child’s upbringing is a small burden for parents.

2. There should be a clearing in forests and state land and where this is possible with a view to increase the available land size for crops. The objective of the state agriculture reformation should be the redistribution of state land for the purpose of each farmer/family to take as his own land (landowner) on average 1 to 1,5 hectare of land.

The purpose of this new rural reform is to create a new agricultural class in the future society which in terms of income will belong in the middle bourgeoisie and will be the backbone of the Malawi future society, and not jokes like the proletariat class. So that’s why the arable land should belong to those who cultivate it.

The available state land and any other land added to this stock of state land by any clearing (e.g. lakes and forests) should be sold by the state to the farmers. If there are landowners who do not cultivate their land the state should buy it from them and then compensate them. The maximum that each landowner in the country should possess will be three hectares. That more than this ceiling will be purchased by the state with compensation to the landowner.

Then the government of Malawi should grant-sell the entire available state land for crops to farmers at an agreed price equal to three times the value of the annual harvest. The repayment from the farmers will take place after ten years.

Farmers who currently have on their ownership 1 hectare of arable land will receive an additional 0.5 hectares of land if pre-agreed by the Government that the arable land threshold per farmer will be 1,5 hectares. Farmers who have 2 hectares of arable land of course will not receive anything.

Farmers who do not have their own arable land and rent it to date will become landowners acquiring a size of arable land equal to 1,5 hectares. The land will be rendered in such a way that each farmer possesses the minimum 1,5 hectares of land on his property.

However, in order to be as successful as possible, these actions should be based on Land Registry in order to facilitate both the government and the farmers. But if there is no Land registry in the country then the process will be done in another way starting while the Malawi government implements the lands registry system in the country with the purpose of which wrong calculations in these actions will be corrected in the future.

Then farmers’ associations-owners should be created throughout the country. Each of these associations will elect its Council and its president. Then they (Council and President) will hire a director with a fixed salary from the private sector alone (not from the public sector in order to avoid corruption) which will manage irrigation, trade and a service for credits of the farmers’ association-union.

In addition, the Malawi Government will guarantee Malawian farmers a high market price to maintain national production. If there is no profitable price, no agricultural reform can succeed.

The result of this agricultural reform will be that the farmer will be working purely for himself as he will be the owner of the land. In this case he will seek better seeds and better techniques and fertilizers to maximize each time the performance of his cultivation.

In this way, the country will be catered for and a production surplus will be created that will be exported. If this economic stage is reached, then a speedy industrialization of the country will follow.

3. Then the Government of the country should make it compulsory to rebuild or space-default of municipal/community packaging of agricultural products in each region/municipality of the region where farmers-producers are located and according to the farmer registers and the respective associations of growers-producers.

4. The Malawi government should direct and advise farmers on the reduction of the costs of their production and in such a way that there is no pressure on the environment, e.g. which agricultural crops are profitable and require the minimum use of water in their production? What way can the use of water in crops be increased without the water used to come from aquatic resources (i.e. creation of rainwater harvesting facilities)?

Which crops exhibit the above characteristics and are also resistant to extreme weather conditions and diseases? Which geographic regions of the country will be selected to produce specific crops and why? etc.

5. Malawi farmers should diversify their crops from maize either experimenting with new maize varieties that are more resistant to extreme weather phenomena or redirected to other crops.

They should be selected either voluntarily or from the government with a clergy of 400 (farmers) arable fields throughout the country to produce without irrigation crops e.g. rye or high-quality cotton respectively.

In this case, the first time everything should be done correctly, i.e. correctly to use the right seeds, the correct fertilizers, the correct carving and the proper watering. Based on the results of the first year, the instalments for the second year will be redefined to double the yield of the crop.

The Malawi government will have the obligation to distribute to these farmers who will be selected to experiment, fertilizers 1,5 month before planting and give them the credits for the purchase of fertilizers which will be repaid by the harvest while setting a lower profitable price for the selected crop in order to be able to repay in practice their debt. If everything goes well then, this crop can be applied with this technique on a much larger scale.

None of this will happen if the government of Malawi does not pull out of their offices and laboratories the agronomists, engineers and technicians of the country and send them close to the farmers.

Farmers in the Malawi whose cultivated areas are located in  acidic  soil  (e.g. soil with PH< 7)  (based on the  World  Bank Survey this percentage refers to 40% of arable land in the country) should give up any maize crops independently if the seeds that will be used are new and durable and turn to other crops.

First, an agronomic study should be applied to shows on what scale the PH of the soil is located and then decide on the types of cultivation to be applied. For example, if the soil has 5.5 <PH< 7 then you can be selected to grow potatoes, sweet potatoes, beans, tomatoes, onions, peppers, cranberries etc.

The aim should be not only to cover the feeding of the population but to create an excess in each type of crop to then be driven to exports that will increase national income.

6. Liberalisation of the market of mutant hybrid seeds giving the Malawian government the permission to farmers of the country to use them in their crops in order to boost yield per crop. The same should be applied to the market of appropriate fertilizers’ which will then help to increase profitability per arable land.

7. A large-scale tree planting program should be implemented around the rice fields which are usually located near the two major lakes of the country. In this way rice crops will be protected from flooding when the volume of rainfall per m2 is high.

Lake Malawi
Photo by Paul Venter, licensed Public Domain

8. Fishing farms companies should be created on Lake Malawi so that they can produce mass fish that are found in the lake in order to cover the feeding of the population and their surplus to direct it in exports to neighbouring countries.

9. In addition, the Malawi government should auction the non-arable state land in companies for the installation of photovoltaic parks. Farmers will be prohibited from installing photovoltaic panels to be exploited to earn additional income. The farmer-producer should be devoted to the work of cultivation and production of his land.

The auctioning of these territories will have as their purpose the long-term lease of these territories to companies (the Malawian state will earn a permanent income) so that the state can then purchase at a specific lower but profitable price the generated electricity from those that will enter it next in the power circuit of the country during the day (since there will be no storage facilities of this power) in order to replace the power generation coming from the hydro-power  stations  of  Lake  Malawi   that provide more than 90% of the country’s electricity.

In this way when the water level in Lake Malawi falls due to high lack of water and droughts, they will not become continuous and often blackouts which, in addition to all others, will affect both the businesses and the irrigation networks of the country.

The long-term goal of the Government of the country should be the renewable energy source from the Sun (photovoltaics) to be used by 70% during the day and during the night when the power consumption decreases the electricity to come from the hydro-stations of Lake Malawi.

The funding of all above policies will be possible from the annual state budget and foreign assistance received by the country and with government borrowing from abroad, increasing its public debt relative to its GDP from 68% which was 2018 to 75% of its GDP.

The future Government services of the Malawi

The government of the country should direct the expenditure of its annual budget in such a way that in every village there should be a rural clinic and with minimum prices for the medicinal products if they qualify that the citizens should buy their medicines. In addition, there should be a hospital in every city.

Most of the government expenditure and foreign assistance received by the country should be directed towards education and the upgrading of the road network. The results of this policy should be such that the largest proportion of the population (> 85%) be aware of reading and writing.

All children in the country should be admitted to secondary education. It should be compulsory to introduce in schools all the children of farmers so that the entire population of the country can develop spiritually.

The future industry of Malawi

The viability of the country’s industry can be ensured by applying three basic principles governing each economic activity:

1. The principle of specialisation

The size of the Malawi economy combined with the size of the domestic market does not justify at this stage (in the future and after the implementation of above policies it could) complexity in the production of products, since either cannot be easily disposed of in vertically integrated supply chain networks to derive the corresponding profit margin or require margin squeeze due to intense competition in the overseas markets.

The specialization in specific products will gradually result in the reduction of production costs, increased of know-how, improvement of quality, increase of specialized investments and finally consolidation of a strong identity at the company and product level equally that will form and the country branding.

The specialization of the Malawi industry, at this initial stage should be specialized forming part of value chains that exploit other active economic sectors, such as food processing and standardization-it is located between the primary sector of the economy and in other sectors of secondary sector-e.g. such packaging and transport services.

2. The principle of comparative advantage

The comparative advantage of a business or product is the best antidote to protectionism and economic fluctuations at national and international level. Furthermore, it is also a factor of development and spotlight of other forces related to the operation of companies with comparative advantages.

Comparative advantages are low production costs, scale of economies, geographic location, distribution networks and product diversification.

In Malawi comparative advantages are the agricultural and livestock farming sectors, as well as tourist sector and new sectors such as energy, especially renewable energy sources that through interconnections can become even more competitive.

3. The principle of cartels

The systematic emergence of a strong national industrial branding can give a geometric-scale boost to a regional economy since domestic businesses are involved with foreigners who have a greater displacement and a foothold in markets of special interest. This strategy will internationalize the country’s economy.

The transfer of know-how and the possibility of entering new markets or markets of added value even indirectly, cultivates a culture of development that benefits with certainty for domestic businesses, creating significant prospects.

With the implementation of all above policies, Malawi will overcome not only the feeding problems of its population but will be able to stop its dependence on international humanitarian aid in the first stage.

Next, Malawi will overcome the poverty problems that plague most of its population. Everything is in the hands of the government and the political system of the country. It’s up to them now.

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