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May 27, 2008

Malawian president boasts of susidised fertilizer-caused maize bumper harvests

Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika has said that Africa was able to feed itself, suggesting other African nations should learn farming lessons from his country.

"We believe in Malawi that Africa can feed itself," Mutharika told reporters before he departed for Japan to attend a meeting of African leaders. "Malawians have been able to feed themselves. There are a lot of countries that want to see me to ask me 'how did you Malawians do this?' ... 'how did you turn things and be able to feed yourself?'."

Mutharika did not say what has led to Malawi's success, although the country, where food security is a pressing issue, is set for a second back-to-back bumper maize harvest due to subsidised fertiliser.

Up to five million people were in need of food aid in 2005 following drought and the government spent over $100-million to import more than 400 000 tonnes of food to avert hunger. Malawi last had a bumper harvest in 1999 when free fertiliser and seeds were distrbiuted to millions of villagers.

"We are not boasting but we will tell them this is our experience. Maybe they can also adapt and become hunger-free in future," Mutharika said. He said Malawi's main focus was to "fight poverty." About half of the 12-million citizens live below the poverty line and on less than $1 a day.

Mutharika said his country had six priorities, including improving its agriculture -- the economy's backbone -- as well as transport and communications, irrigation, food security and energy.

"And of course we want to fight HIV and Aids," he added. About 14% of Malawians are infected with the killer syndrome.

"We are asking all our donors to focus on this. This is the way we will move forward," Mutharika said.

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