Malawi head of state honored by F.A.O.

by Josh Sosland
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ROME — Bingu wa Mutharika, president of Malawi, has been awarded the Agricola Medal by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Mr. Mutharika was honored because of what the F.A.O. described as his "substantial contribution toward transforming the country’s economy from a state of food deficit to a net exporter of maize."

A landlocked country in southeast Africa, Malawi is situated just to the west of Mozambique. Population is estimated at about 13 million.

Mr. Mutharika was honored Nov. 27 at a ceremony in the Malawi capital of Lilongwe. Jacques Diouf, F.A.O. director-general, noted that Malawi is expected to generate 8% economic growth in 2008 despite sharply rising food and energy prices earlier in the year.

Credit for the improved conditions, according to the F.A.O., goes to the adoption of an agricultural Input Subsidy Program, piloted by Mr. Mutharika’s government.

"The country has succeeded in restoring national food security by increasing access to fertilizer and improved seeds by poor farmers and other vulnerable population groups," the F.A.O. said.

Mr. Diouf also credited Malawi as one of only a few nations that has met the 2003 agreement among African heads of state to devote at least 10% of the government budget to agriculture.

Malawi, one of the poorest countries in Africa with an estimated malnutrition rate of 35%, has devoted as much as 16% to its agricultural sector.

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