Speaking at the Conference of African Ministers of Agriculture and Finance held on October 28, in Lilongwe, Malawi, Dr. Bingu Wa Mutharika, President of the Republic of Malawi and current Chairman of the African Union (UA), said that Africa must keep subsidizing its poor farmers to ensure food security throughout the continent.
Sponsored by the UA Commission, the objective of the Conference was to develop policies to fight hunger on the continent. “A small-scale African farmer cannot survive without this system of subsidies to purchase fertilizers, seeds, pesticides, tractors, irrigation equipment and related services,” stated the UA Chairman, who added “It is possible for Africa to become the food basket of the world. Africa can feed itself.”
Up to now, international organizations, such as the World Bank and the IMF as well as Western contributing countries, had warned African governments against any financially aid for their agricultural sector because they felt it was costly and unsustainable.
Yet, when elected in 2004, Wa Mutharika decided to implement a program of subsidies that enabled poerty-stricken farmers to obtain the agricultural production inputs needed to improve yields, such as seeds and fertilizers. As a result, for three consecutive years, Malawi has recorded a production surplus of corn, the country’s main crop. In addition, these dynamic agricultural activities generated a seven percent increase in economic growth.
This proves that the Washington consensus––so treasured by international institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank––does not represent the sine qua non condition for successful agricultural development… quite the contrary.