Update on the food crisis in Malawi

An update on the food crisis in Malawi

By Alex Moreton

As you may remember, back in June we gave you an update on the situation in Malawi and the drought that has already had a devastating impact on the lives of 40 million people in Southern Africa. Unfortunately, the situation has not improved, and we wanted to update our lenders and supporters with what is currently happening; how this affects not only those who are living in Malawi, but also what this means for your loans.

First, a little background:

In Malawi, the rainy season begins at the end of November - the months after the rainy season are the months that many families rely on to grow their food crops for the year ahead. Often also called the ‘hunger season’, this is when farmers have run out of their own crops from the previous year and have no savings to buy more and many will typically survive on one meal a day.

The later the rain arrives, the later Malawians will begin planting their crops of maize and cassava; which then in turn means the crops have less time to grow.

2015/6’s drought was the worst in 35 years and led the country to experience the failure of two consecutive rainy seasons, resulting in farmers having no resources left to feed themselves or their families – they have been in dire need of food assistance for some time now.

The situation did not improve by the end of 2016, and the Malawian President declared a state of emergency due to the fears of a long-lasting food shortage that were proven correct. The drought means crops have failed to grow and unbearably there is no food, or income, for many households and communities in Malawi for this 2017’s ‘hunger season’.

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Deki’s field partner, Temwa, decided to focus their resources into aid and other strategies to get people back on their feet and are still working hard with emergency organisations to offer vital support. Upon the advice of Temwa, who work on the ground in Malawi, we have only been administering loans to people who do not depend on agriculture. Unfortunately, in situations like this, microfinance is not an ideal solution – rather than extending the reliance on debt it is better to offer aid in the short term until the crops grow.

The rains did finally begin a month late, in December, and the agricultural community began planting crops right away, however the crops will not be ready to harvest until April. These few months are going to be a struggle for Malawian communities, and Deki entrepreneurs will find it challenging to stick to their repayment schedules - due to the failure of two consecutive rainy seasons, they are struggling even more than expected and communities are still recovering from the 2015 food crisis.

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Deki will continue to only accept loan applications from those in Malawi who do not rely on agriculture to feed their families. 2015’s late rainy season means that many communities have already run out of food, this year’s ‘hunger season’ is especially difficult and, as a result,  any Deki lenders who are expecting repayments from Malawian entrepreneurs should take this into account - repayments will undoubtedly stray from their original schedules.

Temwa are still working very closely with Deki entrepreneurs to help them get the most from their loans. Supporting individuals with business and money management training will be hugely useful in the coming year, so please be patient as Deki entrepreneurs gain a footing in the Malawian food crisis and are able to survive the harsh realities of a drought.