Yes, we can change Africa from basket case to breadbasket

Agricultural Innovations in Africa, which was published in April, 2011, criticised the foreign development partners’ rigid policies. The book kicks off with praise for Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika, who single-handedly rid his country of food insecurity. The Bretton Woods institutions were opposed to wa Mutharika’s agricultural subsidies, whose opponents argued that this would kill private sector agriculture. However, in reality, the private agricultural sub-sector in Malawi responded vibrantly. Read more here.
Maore Ithula

Malawi agriculture share of GDP falls

Contribution of agriculture to Malawi’s total gross domestic product (GDP) dropped from 31.7 percent last year to 30.1 percent in 2010, said the Reserve Bank of Malawi. The financial review also shows that growth in agricultural activity stood at 1.5 percent in the year, which is slower than the 13.9 percent leap in 2009. Malawi’s economy remains dependent on agriculture. The sector is the single largest employer and generates around 80 percent of the country’s foreign currency. Read more here.

Sign up for democracy in Africa

African democracy institute Idasa is renewing its efforts to get the African Union’s Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance ratified in more African countries. More than 30 member states have signed it, but very few have endorsed it, which is what it needs to become official AU policy. Idasa’s Stefan Gilbert and Jean Scrimgeour will be visiting Malawi, Cape Verde, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Kenya and Namibia over the course of a month to hold seminars to popularise this crucial document. Read more about Idasa’s campaign here and the Charter itself here.

Agricultural productivity, rural livelihood and trade in agriculture

Similar to Malawi’s National Dialogue, Zambia’s FEATS National Dialogue was held in Lusaka on 4 October 2010. The presentation by NRG FEATS Project recommended ways for government to provide complementary services, reduce policy confusion, provide trade facilitation infrastructure and regional & MT negotiations, promote emergence of farmer organisation to encourage a coordinated approach to export promotion, reprioritise its expenditure on agriculture and other policy interventions. Read more here.

Ask Your Government Initiative

The Ask Your Government Initiative aims to reveal the extent to which governments are actually fulfilling their commitments in the areas critical to development, such as, maternal health, aid effectiveness, and environmental protection.  As part of the initiative, five partners of the International Budget Project (IBP) in Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Uganda, and Zambia recorded audio diaries of their efforts to request and obtain budget information from their governments on these issues.  Based on the audio diaries, the IBP produced a five-part series of radio programs.  Meet the researchers in these countries as they tell their stories, find out if their governments answered their questions, and talk about what you think about access to public budget information practices in your country. Idasa’s Thembinkosi Dlamini participated in the Ask Your Government Initiative. Listen to them here.

Seeds of a smallholder revolution

Malawi, Tanzania and Ghana are leading the way for a green revolution. It is important to celebrate progress towards increased food security; but more importantly, it is crucial to focus on plans to build on that success quickly and on a much larger scale.
Agriculture is Africa’s means to move hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. Looking ahead, Africa needs massive investments in agriculture. Read more here.

Malawi hopes to boost agriculture with CAADP

Malawi’s celebrated agriculture input subsidy programme has transformed the country from a recipient of food aid into a net exporter of maize. To sustain this high level of agricultural productivity, the country is aligning its policy with an Africa-wide programme for agriculture – the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP). Through Malawi’s CAADP Compact, Agricultural Sector Wide Approach, Malawi is expecting to get more resources from donors to complement government’s resources to improve productivity in the farming sector, which is led by smallholder farmers. Read more here.

Food security in Sub-Saharan Africa: options and challenges

Food Security Assessment in ERS annual report indicates that the number of food-insecure people decreased an estimated 7.5 percent from 2009 levels to 882 million in 2010. Although the short-term situation has improved, ERS projections point to deteriorating food security over the next 10 years, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. Production shortfalls and subsequent rises in food insecurity due to weather-related events and political disruptions will have high effect in countries such as Cape Verde, Eritrea, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, and Zimbabwe. Read more here.

Citizen leaders in Malawi eager to work on community organising

In April 2010, Idasa’s iLEDA programme completed the last week of the iLEDA School citizen leadership training course in Malawi. 29 out of 30 participants graduated. They are community leaders from the Mangochi and Zomba areas. However you look at it, these participants, mostly just matric graduates, had been asked to learn a lot during the four weeks of training.
by Amy Eaglestone
The iLEDA Schools course teaches the participants skills, knowledge and values through which they can improve community organising. A number of abstract and concrete issues are covered, including ethics, conflict resolution and advocacy, but also local government structures and project planning. To put their new found competencies into practice, each participant is expected to hold an awareness campaign for their community.
Besides the above, participants also grow as a group, learning to trust one another and work together, encouraging and supporting each other along the way. On the final day of the training course in Malawi students expressed their wishes to keep in touch.
“Coming together is just the beginning, staying together is actual progress” is how one participant in Malawi put it. Continue reading