Thursday, March 29, 2012

Climate change squeezing Malawi’s maize production

Charles Mkula in New Times Africa: Despite Malawi registering surplus maize yields in recent years, food production in the southern African nation has been on the decline, a climate change study has indicated. Malawi has in the past six years basked in the glory of maize surpluses that came about partly because of the implementation of the world acclaimed Farm Input Subsidy Programme and favourable rains falling on the heels of serious droughts between 1978 and 2005 growing seasons that resulted in crop failures and low yields.

According to an IMF report, the droughts were evidence of famine that was triggered mainly by failure of the rain-bearing systems during the critical planting season. Rainfall distribution in Malawi has become more unpredictable to the extent that it has reduced crop production, Malawi’s Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development hydrologist Henrie Manford Njoloma has disclosed in his research study of over 60 years of rainfall data in the sub Saharan country. “Rainfall distribution is no longer uniform and predictable as it used to be in the past,” he says noting that maize, the country’s staple diet has been drastically affected by the erratic rainfall patterns.

Njoloma notes that the reliance on rain to produce maize for the national consumption has become Malawi’s great challenge with the main producers of the staple diet being smallholder farmers whose land holding size averages 0.3 ha. Malawi’s food production is mainly from rain-fed agriculture with maize produced by about 97% of all farming house-holds. “When rains fail there is less maize production therefore creating economic problems in the national economy despite maize not being categorized as an economic crop,” he points out....

Photograph by 3268zauber, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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