Civil Society Agriculture Network (CISANET) says it is impressed with agricultural activities at Ntchisi and Bzyanzi prisons.
CISANET national director Pamela Kuwali said this when CISANET toured the two prisons recently. Kuwali said the step in food production that the two prisons have taken will ensure that the inmates enjoy their right to food at all times.
Kuwali said: “The stories we hear from prisons are usually negative. For example, we regularly hear that inmates eat a single meal a day instead of the recommended three meals a day. Therefore, CISANET is very impressed with Ntchisi and Bzyanzi prisons for their amazing efforts in agriculture. “
The two prisons have taken agriculture to a higher level. Apart from cultivating crops such as maize, vegetables, cassava, sweet potato and sugarcane, the inmates also rear livestock such as pigs, goats, chickens and ducks. They also have fish ponds.
Ntchisi Prison cultivate maize on a nine hactares of land from which they are expected to harvest 1600 bags of maize each weighing 50 kilogrammes this year. The prison which was designed to keep 380 inmates but currently has 311 inmates has 28 goats, 4 sheep, 56 local chickens, 11 ducks and rabbits. The prison has two fish ponds and Chambo is part of the inmates’ diet.
The inmates are so creative that during dry season, they use water from kitchen and bathrooms to irrigate the vegetables and other crops.
“We don’t want to lose water. Therefore, all the water from the kitchen and the bathrooms is used to irrigate the vegetables, sweet potatoes and other crops,” said one of the inmate, 33-year-old Eston Damiano.
Damiano said the inmates are living happily in as far as food availability is concerned. He said there is no day when they went to bed on an empty stomach. “We eat thrice a day. When food is prepared, we don’t scramble like what people think of prison life. This is attributed to continuous availability of food at this prison,” he said.
When CISANET visited the prison, it found some inmates shelling maize while others were irrigating the vegetables and feeding the livestock. The storeroom was already full with shelled maize. According to Ntchisi Prison Officer in Charge, superintendent Ben Mthulama, the prison has harvested 23 bags of soy bean, 22 bags of beans each weighing 50 Kgs. From irrigation farming, the prison harvest about 390 bags of maize annually.
Both Ntchisi and Bzyanzi prisons help other prisons like Kachere Juvenile Centre in Lilongwe with food which include vegetables and maize.
Bzyanzi Prison Officer in Charge inspector Rodwelll Mpangazi said the prison keeps youths hence they encourage them to engage in agriculture so that they cannot only produce their own food but also the prison prepares them to be reliable citizens when they go home.
“This is the prison for the youths. This means that these inmates are very energetic. Hence it is good for them to learn these agricultural practices so that they can do on their own when they go home,” said Mpangazi who holds a Diploma in irrigation from Natural Resources College.
CISANET’s visit to the two prisons was part of the project on civil society policy and advocacy towards right to food in Malawi under United Nations window which it is being implemented with funding from Government of Flanders through UNDP.