Ending famine in Malawi, simply by ignoring the experts

by Celia W. Dugger

Women in the Dezda district of Malawi pounding corn to make nsima, the thick cornmeal porridge that is the national staple. Malawi’s government ignored experts and supplied heavy fertilizer subsidies to farmers, contributing to record-breaking corn harvests. Photo: Evelyn Hockstein/NYT

LILONGWE, Malawi — Malawi hovered for years at the brink of famine. After a disastrous corn harvest in 2005, almost five million of its 13 million people needed emergency food aid.

But this year, a nation that has perennially extended a begging bowl to the world is instead feeding its hungry neighbors. It is selling more corn to the World Food Program of the United Nations than any other country in southern Africa and is exporting hundreds of thousands of tons of corn to Zimbabwe.