Malawi has gone from famine-stricken to exporting food in just a couple of years. The secret? It ignored what the experts told it to do and instead did what was best for its people.
Over the past 20 years, the World Bank and some rich nations Malawi depends on for aid have periodically pressed this small, landlocked country to adhere to free market policies and cut back or eliminate fertilizer subsidies, even as the United States and Europe extensively subsidized their own farmers. But after the 2005 harvest, the worst in a decade, Bingu wa Mutharika, Malawi’s newly elected president, decided to follow what the West practiced, not what it preached.
Stung by the humiliation of pleading for charity, he led the way to reinstating and deepening fertilizer subsidies despite a skeptical reception from the United States and Britain. Malawi’s soil, like that across sub-Saharan Africa, is gravely depleted, and many, if not most, of its farmers are too poor to afford fertilizer at market prices.
Corn production is 3.4bn tonnes, more than twice what it was in 2005. The World Bank and others have expressed doubts over whether or not these figures have been inflated, but it is nonetheless exporting to its neighbours while not depending on international aid.by