Call for law on hunger

Published on The Southern Times, 22 October 2009.

The National Right to Food Taskforce, which is coordinated by Church and Society, a project of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP) Blantyre Synod, are circulating a Human Right to Food Bill that seeks to create an independent authority to ensure food security.

The bill is based on the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) under which countries are obliged to ensure that their citizens’ right to food is respected and protected. The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights monitors compliance with the treaty.

The Taskforce requested FoodFirst Information and Action Network (FIAN) a Germany-based NGO, and Rights & Democracy, a Canadian organisation, to analyse hunger in Malawi. Their report, ‘The Human Right to Food in Malawi’, recommended the creation of an authority able to investigate food rights violations and take action on behalf of the victims.  

Food shortages are a recurring problem in Malawi, one of the world’s poorest countries. Half of all Malawian children under the age of five suffer from chronic malnutrition. Around 80 percent of the country’s workforce are subsistence farmers who depend on fertilisers to grow crops, but deteriorating soil fertility and lack of access to fertilisers have resulted in low agricultural output, while lack of infrastructure has left small-scale farmers vulnerable to drought and flooding, researchers found …

… Besides the critical issue of agricultural inputs, a growing population and limited arable hectarage has compounded Malawi’s ability to produce food. The country’s inheritance patterns, which result in land being equally divided among surviving siblings, has led to an average arable landholding of .23ha per capita, and even less in the southern region, according to analysts.

This year, good rain and a successful government-sponsored fertiliser and seed distribution programme have boosted farmers’ yields. Last year the government introduced a coupon system giving small-scale farmers access to 147,000 mt of fertiliser at half the commercial price.

As a result, Malawi has recorded its biggest ever harvest of 2.6 million mt of maize, at least half-a-million more than its annual requirement of 2 million mt. The number of people in need of food aid is down to 980,000 this year. (full text).

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