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Maize output to decline—minister

Minister of Agriculture Sam Kawale has said the actual maize production this year will be lower than figures indicated in the first round of crop estimates due to continued dry spells nationwide. The minister made the clarification in the wake of the release of the estimates which show that maize production will reach 3 608 862 metric tonnes (MT), representing a 2.8 percent increase from 3 509 837MT recorded in the final round of 2022/23 crop estimates. This year’s projected rise is attributed to the increase in hectares by three percent due to good maize prices in the previous marketing season. Reads a statement from Ministry of Agriculture in part: “All the ADDs [agricultural development divisions], except Machinga, projected increases in maize production this season as compared to the 2022/23 season. Shire Valley projected the highest increase in maize production, 16.9 percent, while Mzuzu projected a slight increase of 2.1 percent. “…the production of soya beans and cotton will drop by 7.2 percent and 23.0 percent due to market disincentives and higher prices for hybrid cotton seeds.” Increased production is expected for tobacco, estimated at 144 625 369 kilogrammes (kgs), representing an increase of 20.5 percent compared to the previous marketing season But Kawale said Malawians should expect the actual maize and other food crops production to be lower due to the dry spells induced by El Nino weather phenomenon which has affected most parts of the country, especially the Southern Region. He said: “El Nino is hammering the country badly and we are aware that there will be food shortage. “The President [Lazarus Chakwera] is doing everything to deal with this by allocating enough resources to the National Food Reserve Agency [NFRA] and Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation [Admarc] and stocking it in time so that we can assist people.” Kawale said the President is already discussing with partners to help the country to procure food to assist those who will not harvest enough. Agriculture expert Leonard Chimwaza also cast doubt on the estimated 2.8 percent maize output increase, saying the initial crop estimates were negatively affected by rising temperatures and changes in rainfall patterns. He said despite Malawi registering an increase in hectarage of maize, the degree of damage due to extreme weather conditions has rendered the hike less significant. “Government should engage in intensive irrigation farming. Let the private sector be involved in the production,” said Chimwaza. He also called for an increase in funding towards purchasing maize grain from K12 billion to K50 billion, saying this will give NFRA an upper hand on the market. In a separate interview, agriculture policy expert Tamani Nkhono-Mvula urged the worst affected districts under Machinga ADD to diversify to crops such as cassava and sweet potatoes. Kawale agreed with Nkhono Mvula, saying that is why in the 2024/25 National Budget government has earmarked about K100 billion to intensify crop production irrigation. “With the funding we expected 300 000 MT of maize from irrigation this year,” he said. Based on the estimates, production of other cereals such as rice is 33.8 percent, sorghum at 6.3 percent while wheat is at 94.7 percent. There are also expected decreases in cassava, sweet potatoes which are deemed alternatives to maize, and pineapple production by 6.6 percent, 1.5 percent, and 48.1 percent, respectively.

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Techno Brain breaks silence

Techno Brain Global FZ-LLC has broken its silence on the Malawi passport system mess, saying it made its assessment and submitted practical suggestions to Malawi Government, but is yet to get feedback. The company’s statement comes barely a week after President Lazarus Chakwera told Parliament that the country’s passport issuing system was hacked by “digital mercenaries” and yesterday Minister of Homeland Security Ken Zikhale Ng’oma said the recovery process was at 90 percent. In the wake of the mess that has resulted in suspension of passport printing and processing, some quarters accused TechnoBrain of having a hand in the purported hacking. However, in a statement which Techno Brain representative Nandan Gopalakrishna confirmed last evening, the company said it empathised with Malawi and conducted an assessment despite handing over the system to Malawi last year. Reads the statement: “On the contrary, Techno Brain swiftly responded to an urgent request for assistance from the Government of Malawi to resolve the issue in January 2024. “We conducted an assessment of the situation and submitted practical suggestions to the Government of Malawi on the way forward. We have not heard back from the Government of Malawi on these suggestions to date.” TechnoBrain also said it transferred and completely handed over the operations and administration of the Malawi e-passport system to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services [Dics] in June 2023. It said: “This was done in accordance with a settlement reached by Techno Brain and the Government of Malawi following the premature termination of Techno Brain’s e-passport contract in October 2022. “The handover was extensive and in full accordance with the agreement with the Government of Malawi, including training of the Dics officers, handover of all credentials and security protocols, and all customised source code.” Techno Brain said since the handover in June 2023, it recommended that the Department of Immigration engage and work with the original equipment manufacturer. Meanwhile, during a press conference in Lilongwe yesterday, Ng’oma said the Department of Immigration had recovered 90 percent of the hacked passport system and was hopeful that the system will be up running within three weeks. The minister, who was accompanied by the Department of Immigration and Citizen Services director general Charles Kalumo, said government has instituted a committee to look into the issue. Said Ng’oma: “Only 10 percent of the system is yet to be recovered. After the system failure, the director general of Immigration started looking into it and he has managed to recover 90 percent of the system.” The minister has since pleaded for patience while the investigations to establish what transpired are still underway. Kalumo also pleaded for cooperation as the department works hard to restore the system. “The attack on the system is directed at Malawians, not an individual. We need unity and cooperation to fight the common enemy,” he said. The press briefing came a day after some concerned citizens asked President Chakwera to fire the minister and Kalumo over the prolonged passport issuance challenges, failing which the group would hold vigils at the Immigration premises. The Information and Communications Technology Association of Malawi (Ictam) has also offered to help in resolving the issue. In an apparent response to the Ictam call, Ng’oma called on Malawians to come forward with solutions that can help recover the system quick. He said: “If you have solutions or information that can help us get rid of this glitch, you are welcome to work with us. Please come forward, instead of giving ultimatums.” Malawi has faced passport issuance challenges since 2021 when the government terminated its contract with Techno Brain, which was the country’s passport supplier since 2019. In 2023, government re-engaged Techno Brain on a temporary basis, as it sought to find replacement.

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Yamikani Guba opens 2024 taekwondo season with two gold medals

Taekwondo Master, Yamikani Guba, who was honoured with the accolade of 2023 Sportsman of the Year at the Malawi Sport Awards Gala on February 16, has rolled out the 2024 season with two gold medals attained over the weekend at the Army Open Championship in UK. Guba, Malawi’s only heavyweight professional taekwondo athlete based in the UK who is serving in the British Army and fights for Army Taekwondo WT Team, won the gold medals in WT Poomsae Masters category and +87kgs kyorugi (fighting) at the championships held at the Army Combat Centre in Aldershot on Saturday. He said these were the first championship games this year involving only military personnel and the next games are the Ultimate Open Championship to be held in Shelfield on March 10 and the University World Taekwondo Championships on March 23-24 at Nottingham University. “It feels so good to start off with such a good performance,” he said. “I felt reinvigorated when I was recognised as the Sportsman of the Year by the Malawi Sport Awards. “This year, I aim even higher, not just for the Malawi Sport Awards but to put Malawi on the world map in as far as taekwondo is concerned. Thanks so much to all who support me, especially the media who have exposed me to the Malawian audience,” said Guba, who holds a Malawian passport and has represented Malawi at international level He was recognised by the selectors of the Malawi Sport Awards for winning 15 medals in 2023 of 6 gold medals, 6 silver and 3 bronze. The gold medals he won in 2023 were Ultimate Taekwondo Championships in January; Midlands Open Taekwondo Championships in March; Army Open Taekwondo Championships also in March held at the Army Combat Centre in Aldershort in the Vets +87 category; Seniors at the Scottish Open Championships in September and Vets +87 category at the England Open Championships in November held at Leeds Beckett University. The silver medals were at the 50th Anniversary Dutch Open Taekwondo Championships in March in Eindhoven in the Netherlands in March 23 which is used as the World Taekwondo Ranking event; at the Inter-Services Championships in June; at the European Masters Games 2023 held in Finland in July and Vets +87 category & Seniors at the Scottish Open Championships in September. Guba was also nominated for the 2019 Malawi Sport Awards’ Sportsman of the Year alongside men’s footballer Gabadinho Mhango and women footballer Tabitha Chawinga but the award went to Tabitha. Sharing is caring!

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Ictam offers to assist in Immigration system recovery – The Times Group

By Isaac Salima: Information, Communication and Technology Association of Malawi (Ictam) has written the Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services, saying it is willing to offer technical expertise that will culminate in the recovery of the passport printing system. The system was allegedly hacked. On Wednesday last week, President Lazarus Chakwera told Parliament, during question time, that the hackers are demanding ransom after pouncing on the Immigration system. Ictam President Clarence Gama said the association is ready to offer expertise on the issue. “Most of us in the ICT sector have faced such challenges before. When hackers rock you out of a system in a process called ransomware, the only way to recover the system is to pay the ransom or recover from your backups. If we are not paying the ransom, then let us hope that we have the disaster recovery backup. “However, the issue could be how long that can take,” Gama said. He said the third option on the issue is for the Immigration Department to negotiate with the hackers. He, however, said this is unlikely to yield the desired results. “If this is a cyberattack, we have cybersecurity experts who can assess the nature of the attack. Is it ransomware and what are they [hackers] looking for? If Immigration has backup, we could find skills from our membership that can help them with restoration. What we have written them is that if there is [a] need for technical support, we have a broad membership who may be able to help,” he said. The Ictam boss also urged public entities to always seek support from local experts whenever they face challenges in their operations. Immigration spokesperson Wellington Chiponde did not pick up our calls when we sought his reaction on the issue. Over a month ago, the Immigration Department started experiencing network problems, prompting it to halt the provision of some of its services. The department later issued a statement that it had suspended operations because it wanted to work on maintenance of the system. But a fortnight ago, The Daily Times revealed that the department’s sytem had been hacked. Other reports indicate that there have been contractual issues between the government and system supplier Techno Brain Limited. But Ministry of Justice, through its spokesperson Frank Namangale, dismissed the reports. “We, as a ministry, would also like to clarify that the suspension of passport issuance has nothing to do with contractual disagreements between the Malawi Government and the supplier. The Attorney General has been on top of this issue. The supplier, Techno Brain, handed over the system to the Department of Immigration, including the source code. Work is ongoing to bring the system back,” he said.

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UTM Party, NAP want violence perpetrators arrested

UTM Party and the National Advocacy Platform (NAP) have called for the arrest and prosecution of thugs who attacked Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) members in Lilongwe on Saturday. The two entities said in separate statements issued on Saturday evening that Malawians deserve a political landscape free from violence and that growing cases of political violence threaten democracy. In its statement signed by national publicity secretary Felix Njawala, UTM Party said the attack on DPP members appeared to have been premeditated and coordinated by individuals with connections and resources; hence, the need for the full force of the law to take its course. Reads the statement in part: “We insist on unbiased action, without fear or favour, and no sacred cows hidden from public scrutiny.” UTM Party said it strongly condemns the violence and expressed concern that Malawi is witnessing a deterioration of order and sanity on its political landscape. “This alarming trend, particularly with upcoming elections in the next 19 months, must be decisively addressed by those entrusted with maintaining law and order. Failure to do so could plunge Malawi into the unfortunate category of African countries whose democratic journeys are marred by violence, loss of lives, and property,” the statement further reads. NAP chairperson Benedicto Kondowe, called for prompt and thorough investigations into the violence that occurred in Lilongwe and other recent cases. Reads the statement: “The perpetrators need to be prosecuted to ensure justice. Despite the lawful gathering and all necessary approvals obtained for a peaceful parade, thugs affiliated with political parties viciously attacked peaceful citizens, resulting in injuries and damage to property. “This barbaric behaviour undermines the democratic principles enshrined in our constitutional order and must be unequivocally condemned.” In an interview yesterday, Malawi Police national spokesperson Peter Kalaya said investigations are already under way and police will ensure that those behind the attacks are arrested. “We are on the ground investigating the matter,” he said. DPP members on Saturday gathered at Mbowe Filling Station in Lilongwe for a Blue Convoy Parade activity when they were attacked by thugs who injured some of the party’s supporters, damaged cars and stole some of the vehicle parts. DPP accused Malawi Congress Party (MCP) of masterminding the attack, but MCP distanced itself from the violence.

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Dodma launches lean season food distribution

The Department of Disaster Management Affairs (Dodma) has launched the distribution of maize flour under the Lean Season Food Insecurity Response Programme targeting 12 districts across the country. The launch took place on Saturday in six districts of Blantyre, Machinga, Mangochi, Lilongwe, Ntchisi and Dowa. Speaking during the launch in Dowa, Minister of Agriculture Sam Kawale said government is proactively putting in place deliberate efforts to ensure that people have enough food. “The President has made it clear that he does not want anyone dying because of hunger, that is why government is securing funds to procure maize and maize flour to distribute to those in dire need, so they can have food all year round,” he said. On his part, Dodma director of preparedness and response Moses Chimphepo said the relief response seeks to uplift the lives of individuals who have been affected by the hunger crisis. “As a response to the current food crisis, Dodma through the ministry has been mandated to distribute maize flour at this time that various families, according to the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment report, have been categorized food insecure,” he said. In an interview, Senior Chief Thotho of Traditional Authority Msakambewa in Dowa hailed government for the support. “This is timely. Many households are currently facing acute hunger that has left them vulnerable, especially the old who are unable to fetch food. We thank government for coming to their rescue,” he said. In Dowa, 29 333 households are expected to benefit from the maize flour relief programme which is targeting a total of 397 778 households in 12 districts for up to six months. Government has also included other programmes such as social cash transfer to assist those affected. According to the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee report, at least 4.4 million Malawians face hunger this consumption season, representing 22 percent of the country’s population of about 20 million. This year’s hunger crisis in Malawi has been worsened by Cyclone Freddy which affected most parts of the Southern Region in the 2023/24 growing season. Experts have warned that the situation may worsen in the next consumption season as Malawi is facing El Nino weather conditions which have disrupted rainfall patterns, leading to below-normal precipitation and dry spells.

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Environmentalists gang up against govt plans to construct stadium at Njamba Park in Btz: It’s a historical site

Coordination Unit for the Rehabilitation of Environment (Cure) , a nongovernmental organization dealing with issues of environment and climate change in the country has urged government to withdraw plans of constructing a stadium at Njamba freedom park in Blantyre. Board chairperson for the unit Menard Nyirenda said this in Blantyre on Saturday when the organization in conjunction with other partners joined hands in a tree planting and waste management exercise at the park. The previous government revealed plans to turn the park into a Blantyre stadium and a shopping area. Nyirenda said the freedom is best placed for tourists and income generating activities for the country. ” If well invested, both international and domestic can be visiting this historical place and pay for the services, thereby, generating resources to support other development projects in the country,” he said Nyirenda said it was pity to see the destination being turned into a hub of thieves due to the lack of interest from government to turn it into a productive site. Nyirenda said his organization partnered with other organisations for the efficient and effective implementation of the exercise. He further said the residents are vulnerable to numerous challenges hence needed intervention measures. Nyirenda wondered why the city continued to reel under a myriad of challenges in the quest to take care of it’s botanic resources, and improve on the variety of the botanic endowments it has. ” We need the residents to be responsible. Many places have lost trees meant for wind breaks, therefore, we want to restore nature and residents are the best implementers and custodians for the project. Besides, we engage residents in waste management awareness around the site so as not to be a dumping area for refusals, ” he said Among others, Nyirenda called for the courts of law to speed up the thin plastic pollution ban case to ensure that the country reclaim it’s lost glory of being a clean country. Blantyre City mayor Wild Ndipo said his council has intensified efforts to turn the site into an income generating hub through the installation of various paid for infrastructures and services. He said planting trees in the city will go along the way in preventing the city from the environmental shocks. ” The city has been a victim to various environmental shocks recently due to reckless cutting down of trees, therefore we need to instil a culture of forestation and reforestation so that residents enjoy flora and fauna. Njamba freedom park is a historical site where Pope John Paul 2 ministered mass in the late 90s. Sharing is caring!

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In search of food, 70-year-old Malawian woman walks 40 kilometres

A 70-year-old woman from Machinjiri in Blantyre identified as Ida Zembesani walked from Blantyre-Ndirande to Thyolo-Thava, which is a distance of about 40 kilometers, to help in sourcing funds to buy food for families affected by rising hunger and malnutrition levels. The three days fundraising big walk nick-named ‘walk for hunger’, which was organised by Chimbota Community Development Organisation (CDO) in partnership with Daughters and Sons of Ndirande, was patronized with over 100 people including women and youths. In an interview on Sunday after reaching Thyolo-Thava, Gogo Zembesani born in March 1952 said she decided to join the fundraising big-walk as one way of assisting people who are in need of food in Blantyre and Thyolo Thava. Senior Chief Mphuka of Thyolo district said nearly 99 percent of his subjects are affected by hunger. He added that people were surviving on Mangoes but now the mango season is over and now they are “helpless and hopeless”. “Only 100 out of 67,000 households have food in their houses as we are talking,” said Senior Chief Mphuka, who also commended Chimbota CBO for the initiative which according to him will help to address hunger situation in his area. On her part, Miss Culture Malawi Ireen Navicha who also joined the fundraising big-walk from Thyolo Boma to Thava called upon government and other concerned stakeholders to help families affected by hunger in the country. She described the current hunger situation in the country as a matter of urgency saying: “People are suffering; many are sleeping on an empty stomach with no hope for tomorrow. Government and all concerned parties should quickly intervene,” According to Chimbota CDO co-Director, Kelvin Troughton, the big-walk targeted to raise about K100 million (One Hundred Million kwacha) for the Zanjara Project. The Zanjara Project, an initiative by Chimbota CDO, targets families affected by hunger in Malawi’s Blantyre and Thyolo districts. To reach their ambitious fundraising goal, Chimbota CDO plans to engage business leaders, organizations, and donor NGOs for support. The organization hopes that the combination of the big walk and these additional efforts will help raise the necessary funds to combat hunger in Malawi. “We are targeting to raise K100 million; and we are hoping to reach the targeting within the next few weeks,” said Troughton, adding that big-walk was just a warm up for the main fundraising drive which will involve reaching out to various people and organizations. The hunger situation in Malawi has been exacerbated by planting delays in many regions, leading to concerns about the upcoming harvest and next year’s fertilizer prices. According to sources, many people are resorting to wild plants for survival, raising concerns about their long-term health and well-being. With so much at stake, the Zanjara Project’s efforts to provide aid to those most in need are more vital than ever before. The Blantyre-Ndirande to Thyolo-Thava big walk serves as a powerful symbol of unity and determination in the face of adversity. With the help of business leaders, organizations, and NGOs, the Zanjara Project may be able to make a significant difference in the lives of those affected by hunger in Blantyre and Thyolo districts. Sharing is caring!

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Local company to venture into fertilizer manufacturing in Nkhota Kota

Officials at Ethanol Company Limited (ETHCO) says it will soon start manufacturing organic using the ethanol effluent. They say plans for the fertilizer project at Dwangwa Illovo Sugar Estate in Nkhotakota is at an advanced stage. ETHCO Chief Executive Officer, Lusubiro Chakaniza said caring for the environment is one of the company’s pillars citing that the factory will have an impact on the sugar industry as it will improve some challenges like cost of fertiliser. Chakaniza said the plant will have the capacity to produce approximately 10,000 metric tons of potassium fertiliser per year. “We will be manufacturing fertiliser from wastes that our company is producing to promote zero emissions to industrial activities, she said. Chakaniza said, currently, they are facing supply chain challenges because of the Red Sea war but by mid-this year the plant will be fully operational. 0 shares Share Tweet Pin LinkedIn Email Print

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Govt responds to Pastoral Letter: “We will make use of wisdom shared.”

Minister of Information who is also the government Spokesperson Moses Kunkuyu says government has received a pastor letter issued by the Episcopal Conference of Malawi today with appreciation and determination to make use of wisdom that has been offered. In an interview minutes ago, the minister added that government will continue utilizing engagements with the clergy on matters affecting the country. “We are not going to engage them in item-by-item response, but instead we will not get tired of utilizing the engagement that we do have with the clergy from time to time”, he said. Catholic bishops have today issued a pastoral letter titled The Sad Story of Malawi in which they have taken a swipe at the government executive, the legislature and the judiciary for failure to deliver public services for the poor. The bishops have bluntly accused the Tonse administration of rampant corruption and outright failure to fulfil its campaign promises. In their letter, however, the bishops have applauded efforts by the Malawi Law Society to enforce justice even where the ministry of justice and the judiciary have not impressed. The bishops have decried government’s continued engagement of corruption suspects in multimillion dollar public business contracts, an apparent reference to Zunneth Sattar. The letter has also discussed leadership problems in Malawi. They say, as Episcopal Conference in Malawi the bishops have physically met and discussed issues with President Lazarus Chakwera to no avail. Sharing is caring!

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