The Russian Government has invested 20,000 metric tons of fertilizer to Malawi which is part of the Russian Federation commitment made in 2022 to help least developed countries with agriproducts and agricultural expertise to boost food security.
Russian ambassador to Zimbabwe and Malawi, Nikolai Krasilnikov said: "There is a global crisis of rising food costs and we hope this fertilizer will help farmers realise better yields either from rain fed agriculture or irrigation."
The Ambassador further pledged Russia's support to Malawi in fighting the cholera outbreak.
The Ministry of Agriculture estimates that over 3,000 households would benefit from the donation, with it's Minister, Sam Kawale reaffirming government's commitment in ensuring that the affordable input programme (AIP) yields desirable results -- citing several reforms that are expected to be implemented within the system.
Speaking in Lilongwe at Mkwinda EPA, Traditional Authority (T/A) Chiseka where he received the consignment, Kawale expressed gratitude to the Russian Federation for the gesture, saying it is an act of goodwill stemming from good bilateral relations.
He said the investment will go a long way in ensuring that the programme closes on a good note, saying: "Malawi Government reached out to World Food Programme (WFP) to assist in the procurement of fertilizer for AIP and they managed to get Russia's support.
"We are grateful for the response because, as it is, Malawi is the first of other targeted African countries to benefit from Uralchem-Uralkali fertilizer from Russia," said the Minister.
The Russian Ambassador has since extended an invitation to Malawi to attend the second Russia-Africa summit at the humanitarian and economic forum in Moscow in July this year.
"We hope to see a Malawi delegation at the summit which will advance our relations and ensure that the Malawian business community takes advantage of such ties," he said.
In response, Kawale stressed the importance of attending the conference, saying government would do so upon assessing its engagements at the time.
"Malawi Government treasures bilateral relations," he said. "With our focus on the MW2063, whereby agricultural commercialisation, mechanisation and establishment of mega farms are priorities, we hope to tap from Russia's expertise in agriculture.
"We take this invitation as an extension of goodwill that the Russian government has towards Malawi."
The initial fertilizer consignment, according to the Russian Ambassador is 30,000 metric tons but 10,000 of it is held up due to sanctions the country is facing following the conflict with Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Minister Kawale apologised for the delay in the implementation of the AIP which people at the function lamented, saying the unfortunate development was a result of the devaluation of the country's currency and increased global fertilizer prices.
"We acknowledge that the fertilizer has come at a time when crops are almost ready in the fields," he said. "I urge beneficiaries whose rain-fed crops have already matured to either use the fertilizer for irrigation farming or keep it for use during the next farming season."
According to Kawale, government has put in place a number of reforms to ensure that the next AIP programme does not face similar hurdles.
"We have learnt from what has happened and we will ensure that there is no repetition of such," he said, adding that the Ministry has so far managed to solve network issues that were choking the exercise by intensifying mobile vending using trucks and increasing devices and clerical staff for the programme."
This was a reaction from concerns raised by representative from Lilongwe District Council, Luciano Botomani and Senior Chief Chitseka over looming hunger as a result of delays in the AIP implementation.
"The AIP is a goof intervention only if farmers access inputs in good time," Botomani said. "Currently, crops in most fields have wilted due to lack of fertilizer. We hope government will keep its word to roll out the programme in time this year."
While Senior Chief Chistseka called on those to benefit from the fertilizer to resist the temptation of selling it once acquired and also requested authorities to consider opening a Smallholder Farmers Fertilizer Revolving Fund Malawi (SFRFM) branch in the area to help farmers easily access inputs.
One of the beneficiaries, Eviness Kajiwa said with the hunger threat in the area, the best she will do is keep the fertilizer for use for the next farming season.