Government of Malawi must comply with Right to Food obligations:

International fact-finding mission presents preliminary observations


LILONGWE – April 20, 2006 – An international human rights fact-finding mission examining efforts to address the ongoing food crisis in Malawi cited a lack of accountability, systemic discrimination and an entrenched dependency on food aid as some of the obstacles the Government of Malawi must overcome in order to meet its human rights obligation to ensure its people have access to adequate food.

The week-long mission, led by the Canada’s Rights & Democracy and FIAN International from Germany in association with civil society organizations from Ghana and Zambia and Malawi’s National Right to Food Taskforce, found that State efforts to respond to the hunger emergency currently affecting nearly five-million Malawians are being hampered at all levels by systemic shortcomings including a lack of effective monitoring mechanisms and complaint procedures, notably at the district and village levels.

The mission visited rural communities in the Kasungu, Salima and Mchlnji areas and met with representatives of local and national government, donor agencies and Malawian civil society groups. Its inquiries found that a lack of such reporting and accountability mechanisms is resulting in breaches of Malawi’s obligation to respect the right to food, including the alleged sale of subsidized maize to traders through government outlets at the height of the hunger emergency.

The mission also found evidence of systemic discrimination against those who need assistance most, notably in the way fertilizer coupons are distributed to farmers. It was observed that the poorest segments of the rural population often did not obtain fertilizer coupons because of poor targeting or could not redeem coupons due to the lack of financial means.

Finally, the lack of sufficient programs and resources dedicated to agricultural development and extension services has perpetuated over-dependence on maize and imported inputs such as chemical fertilizers and delayed progress towards national food security.

  • On the basis of these observations, the preliminary recommendations of the fact-finding mission include the following:
  • The Government of Malawi should draft and adopt legislation that entrenches the primacy of human rights in the design of food security and nutrition related policies;
  • The Government of Malawi should implement effective monitoring mechanisms and complaints procedures at all levels but particularly at the district and village levels;
  • The Government of Malawi and its donors should adopt and support long term programming aimed specifically at the implementation of policies for national self-sufficiency in food production.