November 23, 2005

Vice-president arrested / Insurance programme for local farmers

Malawi's political crisis has hit a new low with the arrest of Vice-president Cassim Chilumpha on corruption charges, igniting a new round of squabbling among the country's leaders. The arrest was connected to a financial scandal during his time as minister of education, but is also being perceived as linked to the feud between President Bingu wa Mutharika and his former party, which is seeking to impeach him. Malawians interviewed said they were fed-up by the crisis undermining government at a time when more than a third of the country's 12 million people were facing food shortages as a result of a crippling drought. "Let the guy rule and finish his term. We have a number of problems in this country - there is hunger at the moment and we have HIV/AIDS in our midst. Let the politicians concentrate on them," said civil servant Angelah Mbalame.
In the meantime, a new pilot programme which aims to help Malawi's smallholder farmers access agricultural loans and risk cover in the event of drought, boosting their ability to recover from shocks, has been introduced. The Scheme has been designed by Malawi's National Smallholder Farmers' Association and the Insurance Association of Malawi with the support of the World Bank and the Opportunity International Network.
Nearly 900 farmers in four areas will participate in the pilot phase of the programme, which covers groundnuts. If successful, the project could be scaled up to include other crops, such as maize, the staple crop, and may be introduced in other parts of Malawi and Africa. The Drought Insurance Pilot Project would give small-scale farmers an opportunity to get loans from the banks and have their money secured when there is drought, said Ben Kautsire of the Insurance Association of Malawi. The initiative was aimed at "putting the farmer back to where he/she was before a drought. In the event that there is drought, farmers should be able to protect themselves, and this is the whole essence of this arrangement," he added.
The project is being implemented in Lilongwe, Kasungu and Nkhota Kota districts in the central region of the country. (IRIN)


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