Greatest matter of urgency is to rescue this year’s AIP—Chakwera

Chakwera speaking to the nation on Tuesday evening 

* 35,000 metric tonnes of NPK and 31,727 of Urea are available in Malawi

* Another 7,000 metric tonnes of NPK will be on its way from Beira, Mozambique

* 51,500 metric tonnes of NPK has been identified abroad, and financing options and procurement procedures are being pursued

* 31,500 metric tonnes of Urea has also been secured, 13,500 of which already started arriving in Malawi

* Most of the remainder has already been delivered at the port in Beira to be transported to Malawi

By Duncan Mlanjira

In firing Lobin Lowe as Minister of Agriculture, President Lazarus Chakwera told Malawians that this was “the greatest matter of urgency following the Ministry’s failures in order to rescue this year’s agriculture input programme (AIP).


In his national address on Tuesday evening, Chakwera relieved Lowe of his duties and replaced him with Minister of Lands, Sam Kawale as the urgent step towards the AIP and the need to deliver much-needed fertilizer “to the millions of farmers around the country in time for the upcoming planting season”.

He announced that in the second week of September, he convened an emergency cabinet meeting to tackle this matter, and formed a Cabinet Committee chaired by Kawale himself “to oversee the emergency procurement of fertilizer for this year’s AIP”.

“In the six weeks that have passed since its formation, the Committee has engaged the relevant and necessary stakeholders both here and abroad — to ensure the delivery of the fertilizers we need as a country.

“Since we are in an emergency situation, the Committee was given the mandate to use all means necessary to secure the necessary volumes of fertilizers, including identifying fertilizers already in the custody of local suppliers, though our standing policy generally and going forward is to procure the product directly from manufacturers.

New Minister of Agriculture, Sam Kawale

“So far, 35,000 metric tonnes of NPK and 31,727 of Urea are available in Malawi, and the financing for this is in place and the letters of credit are being issued. Another 7,000 metric tonnes of NPK and financing for it has been secured, which will be on its way from Beira, Mozambique as soon as the transaction is completed.

“Similarly, another 51,500 metric tonnes of NPK has been identified abroad, and financing options and procurement procedures are being pursued so that the product can be dispatched to Malawi.

“Lastly, 31,500 metric tonnes of Urea has also been secured from abroad, 13,500 of which already started arriving in Malawi, while most of the remainder has already been delivered at the port in Beira to be transported to Malawi.”

Chakwera further said all of this means four things — “an urgent need for the arrangements for the delivery and distribution of these consignments to be completed with speed.

“Secondly, it means that there is an urgent need for the small shortfall in fertilizer supply to be covered. Thirdly, it means there is an urgent need for a review of the competency of those who run our public agricultural institutions, including those at ADMARC, at Smallholder Farmers Fertilizer Revolving Fund, at Greenbelt Authority, and at National Food Reserve Agency, where we have already identified levels of incompetence, negligence, and corruption we are already in the course of rooting out.

“Fourthly and crucially, it means that there is an urgent need for radical reforms to the AIP itself to improve its efficiency and protect it from careless acts of negligence, corruption, incompetence, and wastage.”


Some of these necessary reforms include:

1. Better targeting of beneficiaries to distinguish those who have the capacity for the kind of food production that will achieve food security through high yields and boost the economy from those whose food security should be achieved through an equally targeted social protection programme;

2. Using the cooperatives and farming clubs we have been building to identify those with capacity for commercial farming to graduate them from the AIP to the Agricultural Commercialization Project (AGCOM), whose resource envelop will be tripled in the new year to grant such farmers greater access to the funding they need to flourish and deliver on our vision of developing mega farms;

3. Streamlining various subsidy programmes and social protection programmes under one Consolidated National Safety Net that ensures that all 4 million households that need Government

assistance are served by different interventions tailored to their needs and capacity instead of lumping everyone under AIP when we now have two years of evidence that AIP is not the best solution for everyone, and this streamlining is achievable using technology, a Unified Beneficiary Register, and National IDs;

4. Policing AIP expenditure with discipline to keep it within its 109 billion kwacha budget allocation instead of blowing it up further as the Smallholder Farmers Fertilizer Revolving Fund has wrongly tried to do in today’s papers by offering contracts to fertilizer suppliers that would cost nearly twice as much;

5. Starting the procurement of fertilizer for next year by placing production orders directly to manufacturer early in the financial year to ensure timely delivery of this critical commodity to our hardworking farmers by people who know how to do the job instead of people who just want the job but don’t know how to do it;

6. Determining the price at which qualified citizens access subsidized fertilizer on a year-by-year basis based on market forces that affect supply and demand, for we have seen that in a world where prices have skyrocketed everywhere because of Covid-19 pandemic and war, it is not realistic to set the buying price of subsidized fertilizer indefinitely the way we did in the face of the advantages we had 2019, which have since been eroded by harsh global realities beyond our control; and

7. Monitoring the progress of those farmers who qualify for AIP support from year to year to ensure that there are graduation points for everyone as they prosper, instead of keeping farmers in a perpetual state of dependency, which defeats the Malawi 2063 vision of moving Malawians away from poverty and towards self-reliance.

President Chakwera at the launch of AIP in 2020

“Admittedly, this new and reformed AIP, this AIP 2.0, if you will, is not the same kind of AIP we started with two years ago. But it is a better and improved AIP, an innovative AIP for the 21st Century, and though there may be pain and glitches in the transition from the current AIP, I believe we will all eventually be proud as a nation for leading the way in designing a programme that truly makes a difference, not just one that makes for popular politics.

“One proof that a new and more effective AIP is needed urgently is the fact that despite the successful distribution of subsidized fertilizer to millions in 2020 and in 2021, there are still 3.8 million Malawians — who are food insecure in 2022.

“We need to have a better solution for such citizens rather than condemning them to a life of dependency on a programme that is not suited for them.


“This is why recently my Administration pursued the creation of better interventions to help such households, which has already resulted in the securing of emergency funding amounting to US$50 million, which will be used by Government to reclaim and redeem the ADMARC maize that is being held as collateral by local banks, and so Government will have that maize available for distribution to the millions who need maize relief because their fields did not do well.

“As you can see, what I have outlined is a vision for the transformation of the agricultural sector, and we have already secured the support of our international partners to make it succeed.

“But even with the support of our partners, the vision needs new leadership over the agricultural sector to drive it, the kind of political leadership that can deliver results with integrity and speed.”

Fired Agriculture Minister Lobin Lowe

Thus Chakwera needed to remove Lowe and replace him with Kawale — having already been given the task to chair of the Cabinet Committee on AIP “so that he may continue the good work he has already begun”.

“And speaking of Cabinet, I want to make it clear that I will be announcing other changes in due course, because the time for keeping people as Ministers without any noticeable contribution or difference they are making to my efforts to transform Government performance in delivering better public services to Malawians is past.

“The time for keeping people as Ministers who allow incompetence, corruption, and wastage to happen on their watch simply because the people doing it are their friends or members of their parties or alliance partners is past.

“So my message to everyone I have appointed so far is this — Malawians deserve results, and they elected me to deliver those results, and I will see to it that those results are delivered with or without you, because I am not here to serve a party, or a Minister, or an alliance.

“I am here to serve Malawians. And I will do so no matter who tries to spread lies about me, no matter who tries to tarnish my image by using my name to advance their corrupt agenda, and no matter who tries to intimidate me by colluding with corrupt individuals to sponsor demonstrations.

“And I know that our efforts will succeed, because most Malawians know that we will deliver, and most Malawians know that God is with us.”