Thursday, July 18, 2024


Vitumbiko Ellastomer Chihana, a young professional offering an opinion on how to utilize national resource of fertilizer and land to avert a looming hunger induced by cyclone disaster.

This Open Letter has been written by Vitumbiko Ellastomer Chihana, a Malawian young professional and scholar resident in Republic of South Africa. He is an insurance specialist and has appeared in several high-level international panel discussions on youth and politics alongside huge figures like former President of the Republic of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki. Shire Times is only transmitting the opinion (in full) without adopting it or claiming any rights to it.


Dear Your Excellence Sir,

The purpose of this open letter is to suggest possible solutions of the projected hunger crisis awaiting us in our path this year as a nation.

Firstly, I must abjectly, yet deferentially, submit and acknowledge that you have credible advisors not to say of the erudite minds that may possibly provide advice better than this contact is attempting to offer.

In the wise words of Bernard Baruch, financier and US presidential advisor; “Most of the successful people I’ve known are the ones who do more listening than talking.”

Your Excellence, Ralph Nichols, also once said, and I quote: “The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.”

Sir, no one can objectively assert that this art of listening escaped your character and leadership. In fact, exactly 356 days ago, on a day like this, you proved your inclination to listen from us ordinary citizens when I wrote to you, pleading to respond to South Africa when they lost about 450 lives due to floods in Kwa-Zulu Natal. While this is not to claim that you reached out with message of togetherness with the South African people on exclusive ground of my opinion so shared with you, I nevertheless harvest satisfaction that you did anyway such that my plea was not shamed.

All citizens of good will really appreciate your listening ear and I am emphasizing hear to say “thank you, Sir for listening”. It is on a justified confidence, therefore, that I find it sensible to pass across this opinion which, truly speaking is actually a plea.

Your Excellence Sir, you have witnessed and been saddened by Cyclone Freddy where we, as a nation, have lost a large number of human lives as well as billions in public infrastructure and private properties combined. While we may heal from the loss of property, we cannot tell that the same will happen in respect of loss to lives of our beloved ones.

Increasing on the sadness brought about by this disaster is that fact that we have not yet finished suffering the consequences of this disaster as yet a huge undeniable consequence is yet to be felt. The point, Your Excellence, is that this Cyclone further resulted into crops from lots of farms being washed away. These were crops that evidently, were vividly deficiently in the eyes of many farmers due to the Affordable Input Program (AIP) that was mismanaged contrary to your expectations Sir. These factors include and are not limited to; late delivery of fertilizers in different parts of the country, and corrupt practices by those assigned to manage this program, that some of the beneficiaries did not receive what was meant for them. This overwrites the objective of this program by Ministry of Agriculture, which is to achieve self-sufficiency and increased income of resource-poor households through increased maize and legume production. The scenario, Your Excellence paint a sad and gloomy picture.

Your Excellency, they say “Ikakuwona litsiro silikata”. The worst part is that we have also have been hit by dry spells in the Northern region, and farmers have lost fortunes of potential harvests there.   All these tragedies predict one intense and severe near-future crisis—HUNGER!

While we have these concerns, I must also take a risk of bothering you with another statement of local wisdom which say “Kudumpha dzenje, mkulinga utaliwonera patali”. If we can work for the possible back-ups, we, as a nation, will not face this wrath, or if we may face it, it won’t be as severe. In that regard, I was thinking:

1). On February 6, this year, it was announced that we have received 20 000 tons of Russian Fertilizers, this was also confirmed by Minister of Agriculture, Honourable Sam Kawale. Now, what if the government, through the said Ministry or ADMARC, allocates a mass land in parts of the country where the government itself, should be the sole custodian of irrigation faming by using this 20 000 ton donated fertilizer. It takes approximately 100 days for maize to grow in full size, assuming we do this, now, by the end of August this year, government will have at least a huge harvest in its silos. Therefore, we save citizens.

2). By raising awareness of food insecurity through spreading the word. The ministry of civic education, should be tasked this. I certainly believe, one easy way to assist in the fight against hunger is to help raise awareness about food insecurity and to dispel the myths surrounding hunger. If we inform and educate our citizens well about food insecurity, it can help people to acquaintances better understand the challenges that people face every day in trying to get food on the table for their families.

In the end Your Excellence Sir, I humbly leave you with the following words from Peter Nulty, who once said; “of all the skills of leadership, listening is the most valuable — and one of the least understood.

Most captains of industry listen only sometimes, and they remain ordinary leaders. But a few, the great ones, never stop listening. That’s how they get word before anyone else of unseen problems and opportunities.”



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