The cost of inputs is what holds back small scale farmers. We should subsidise farm inputs but I’m afraid our unscrupulous leaders will find a way to sabotage that too.:mad:
Bingu wa mutharika former president of Malawi was an economist who turned around the country from a food aid dependent country to food self sufficiency
He is famously quoted as telling the IMF and WB that he would, “do what western countries have done and not what they were asking him to do.”
[I]In 2004, Mutharika was elected president. He entered office with a drought already under way. Yet as my colleague and World Food Prize winner Dr. Pedro Sanchez explained to me, the drought was not only a rainfall drought, but also a nitrogen drought.
Malawi’s impoverished farmers were too poor to buy fertilizer, and their intensive farming over many years had depleted the soils of nitrogen, with a consequence that the farm yields were among the lowest in the world.
Mutharika then did a brilliant thing. He said that the government of Malawi would subsidize the smallholders to buy a small amount of fertilizer and seed so that they could replenish the soil nutrients, take advantage of improved seed varieties, and at least achieve a livable crop from their tiny farms. Over time, they could save part of their increased earnings to become creditworthy on their own, thereby ‘‘graduating’’ from the subsidy program.
This was to be a ‘‘smart subsidy.’’ Rather than simply lowering fertilizer prices for all, which would disproportionately benefit the rich, the government gave a voucher ticket for a small fixed amount of fertilizer and seed per household, thereby disproportionately benefiting the poor.
The donors were aghast, scandalized. Didn’t Malawi know that farm subsidies were bad, indeed ‘‘prohibited’’ by the donor community? The head of Britain’s Malawi assistance program actually told me that Malawi’s peasants (presumably by the millions, though this was only implicit) should leave Malawi for other countries rather than be supported by ‘‘unsustainable’’ subsidies. I told him that his idea was tantamount to a death sentence for a vast population.
In the end, Mutharika prevailed over donor resistance. Malawi used its own paltry budget revenues to introduce a tiny subsidy program for the world’s poorest people, and lo and behold, production doubled within one harvest season. Malawi began to produce enough grain for itself year after year, and even became a food donor when famine struck the region. Life expectancy began to rise, and is estimated to be around 55 years for the period 2010-15.
Once the program began to show success, the donors started to fund it, thank goodness, since Malawi could not carry the program on its own (at least not without squeezing other life-and-death needs such as health delivery). Even more importantly, many other African countries began to follow Malawi’s lead, and thereby to achieve breakthroughs in farm yields and food production for the first time in their modern history. Malawi had pointed the way to a new Green Revolution for Africa.
Around 2009 there were rumors, fortunately false, that Britain would withdraw its support from the donor program. I called one of the U.K. government’s lead development advisers. The adviser, a very congenial person, told me in all innocence, ‘‘No, of course we won’t stop funding it. The subsidy program was our idea.’’ I had to laugh. Such is the way with success. [/I]