From the podium

From the podium

His Excellency Aleke K. Banda (Minister for Agriculture and Irrigation of the Republic of Malawi)

It is my honour and privilege to have this opportunity to address this distinguished gathering and to share the views of my delegation on various regional and global issues related to food, agriculture and other issues affecting the well being of humanity.

Mr Chairman and Distinguished Delegates, I wish to inform you that I am here representing my President, His Excellency Dr Bakili Muluzi, who has been unable to attend this Summit. He conveys his message of goodwill and wishes the Summit successful deliberations. My President attaches great importance to the 1996 World Food Summit Declaration which was our Heads of State commitment to have the number of people living below the poverty line reduced by half from 800 million to 400 million by the year 2015. Malawi will work very hard towards achieving this goal. However, Mr Chairman, since my last address of 6 November 2001 at the Thirty-first Session of the Food and Agriculture Organization Conference held in this same city, Rome, Malawi and the Southern Africa Region as a whole have continued to experience serious food shortages. According to the May 2002 Southern Africa Development Community Regional Early Warning Report, the SADC region faces a maize deficit of about three to four million tonnes.

Malawi was able to produce all her food requirements in the 1998-1999 and 1999-2000 seasons as a result of favourable climatic conditions and universal free distribution of inputs. However, in the 2000-2001 season, floods affected 15 out of the 27 districts of the country and destroyed crops and livestock. As a result, Malawi suffered a deficit of 320 000 metric tonnes. This season, 2001-2002, the situation is much worse because Malawi was hit by the late onset of rains and a long dry spell during a critical plant growth period in February 2002. This forced the President of Malawi, His Excellency Dr Bakili Muluzi, to declare a state of disaster throughout the country. Malawi, therefore, calls upon the international community to assist the country and other affected SADC countries in mobilizing the much-needed food to avoid a catastrophe.

In the Africa region, civil wars and other extreme shocks, such as drought, help to explain the failure of many countries to meet the challenges espoused in the 1996 World Food Summit Declaration. In addition, unfavourable terms of trade between developed and underdeveloped countries limit the ability of the latter to improve food productivity and access to the markets.

Malawi is blessed with abundant water resources which are currently underutilized. In order to address persistent droughts, irrigation development is being given very high priority.

Currently, activities such as development of irrigation in flood plains or wetlands and development of small-scale irrigation through treadle and small motorized pumps are being implemented. Plans are underway to start the canalization of water from lakes and rivers to enable farmers to irrigate their fields.

Mr Chairman, Distinguished Delegates, the relationship between poverty and food security is well documented. At the rate poverty is increasing, it is almost impossible to achieve the 1996 Heads of State Declaration. The Declaration, with respect to our region, will remain theoretical and far-fetched if nothing drastic is done. To achieve targets set out in the 1996 Declaration, there will be need to develop or enhance, with speed, sustainable interventions that will require the support of our cooperating partners.

Mr Chairman, let me hasten to state that the Food and Agriculture Organization and other development partners have supported a number of policy reforms and programmes in Malawi. In this regard, we deeply appreciate the Special Programme for Food Security which is being implemented in my country.

It is our sincere hope that recent initiatives, such as NEPAD, will create a favourable environment for developing countries such as Malawi to expand their volume of trade, thereby increasing productive capacity for food security and poverty reduction. Malawi is committed to working as a nation, but also as a member of SADC to make the regional cooperation under NEPAD a success. Malawi would welcome any advisory services to enable it to capture all opportunities for support to the agriculture sector that the Doha Agreement permit.

Mr Chairman, with its well-articulated strategies in place, reaffirms its enormous will and commitment to reduce the incidence of poverty and hunger by more than 50 percent by the year 2015. It is a war that is not impossible to win but one which requires good and close recipient and donor partnership.

In conclusion, I would like to state that Malawi has high hopes for this World Food Summit: five years later because of the role it will play in reaffirming the commitments made by this same gathering in 1996. It is Malawi's hope that this World Food Summit: five years later will achieve its planned goal. Malawi remains committed to the implementation of the World Food Summit Declaration and Plan of Action and will welcome any support they may be offered by well-wishers.

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