Agriculture in MalawiIn high-rise corporate buildings and individual cubicles, a barrier unfolds in the lives of many people who work in air-conditioned offices toward the difficulties of a career in agriculture. Small changes in the weather or environmental conditions impact entire communities. The emergence of the collaboration between new, innovative technological solutions and the farms of Malawi shed light on the future of farming.

Agriculture in Malawi

Malawi is a landlocked country in the southeast Africa. About 80 percent of Malawi holds connections to the agricultural sector as a means of their livelihood, representing the importance of efficient and innovative farming policies. Political leaders implemented the “National Nutrition Policy and Strategic Plan” to complement the pre-existing “Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program”. Together, the policies coordinate government spending and growth in the agricultural sector. Malawi also works with other organizations and governments for additional agricultural support. For example, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) invests in dairy and legume cultivation, provides training to assist in financial and economic improvements and works with local communities to develop lasting solutions.

Concern Worldwide in Malawi

Another organization that provides agricultural assistance is Concern Worldwide. Created in 1968 by a couple named John and Kay O’Loughlin-Kennedy, this group is based in Ireland. It initially started as a response to the independence movement in Biafra from Nigeria that resulted in widespread famine. The organization eventually expanded to countries in need around the world, providing aid and sending volunteers.

In 2021, Concern Worldwide provided emergency assistance to 17.8 million people and health services to 11.4 million people. In 24 countries, Concern Worldwide emphasizes the livelihoods and education of impoverished communities and fights for adequate health and gender equality.

Harnessing the Power of the Sun

One of Concern Worldwide’s latest initiatives is the implementation of a program to improve agriculture in Malawi. Because a large portion of the country relies on the success of agriculture to survive, it is vital that the productivity and efficiency of new technological innovation transfer to the communities to establish a sustainable livelihood. Concern helps install solar-powered irrigation systems with funding partnerships with organizations such as the European Union and Irish Aid.

The new irrigation system allows farmers to avoid problems associated with droughts and other environmental inconsistencies and plant multiple times per year. The collaboration in these local communities ensures that the program will be long-lasting and sustainable. Groups in specific areas assemble into co-operatives, jointly operate the system and make decisions about entering the agricultural market to ensure a profit. The profits provide repayment for the irrigation system, allowing the organization to move on to the next co-operative group. Thus, the system that Concern Worldwide supports encourages productive farming techniques and resourceful business strategies to ensure long-term success for agriculture in Malawi.

Success Builds From Previous Projects

The development of solar-powered irrigation systems builds on prior projects in the region from similar humanitarian groups. Concern Worldwide previously worked with the Promoting Sustainable Partnerships for Empowered Resilience (PROSPER) program to provide treadle pumps in partnership with UK Aid.

It functioned as a means to increase food accessibility and availability. After budget cuts, the organizations that were supporting the project were unable to continue. Thus, there is hope that the new solar-powered system yields more success among renewed efforts in the field of agriculture in Malawi. The solar-powered irrigation system also builds on a prior UNICEF project for a solar-powered water pump in Malawi. UNICEF installed this pump and also trained citizens to operate and fix the pump when needed while creating a way to fund the pump through a community garden. The program assisted in a wide variety of poverty-reducing actions in the areas of sanitation, agriculture, trust in local institutions and time for children to attend school.

A Look Ahead

As more projects such as the prior project that UNICEF implemented as well as the more recent project by Concern Worldwide make a difference in Malawi’s local agricultural communities, individuals remain closer to maintaining healthier and stable lifestyles.

Kaylee Messick
Photo: Flickr

Agriculture in MalawiWith 80% of Malawians working as smallholder farmers, a great deal of the Malawian population and economy depend on the agricultural sector. However, 70.3% of Malawians currently live below the international poverty line and severe droughts and floods frequently threaten agriculture in Malawi and farmers’ livelihoods. The Malawian people are in need now more than ever of initiatives and funding to support the agricultural sector.

This is why the U.S., in its recent developmental work in Malawi, is largely prioritizing agricultural initiatives which have the potential to see the country’s soaring poverty and food insecurity rates decrease as well as boost economic growth and innovation. With that, here are a few of the important steps the U.S. is currently taking to support agriculture in Malawi.

Increasing Commercialization

Among the U.S.’s goals for the Malawian agricultural sector, one major aspect is expanding the industry’s commercialization. In a recent press release, USAID announced its $35 million support for the expansion and strengthening of Malawi’s agricultural industry. It pointed out that the country’s population is growing and limited agricultural productivity has presented numerous obstacles to meeting growing needs.

“Malawi’s agricultural industry is not sufficiently commercialized nor large enough to meet the needs of a growing population, which is projected to double to nearly 34 million people in just over two decades,” USAID explained. “[This] new project will generate jobs and incomes for smallholder farmers and increase agricultural and food exports for the country.”

Strengthening the Private Sector

As part of supporting the expanded commercialization of Malawi’s agricultural industry, the U.S. also aims to boost investment in the country’s private sector. In a speech in Malawi on July 2, USAID Administrator Samantha Powers reconfirmed this commitment, stating, “We will invest in rural economic hubs, supporting companies that, themselves, support smallholder farmers or help process their goods for export.”

One such program which will invest in the private sector in order to bolster agricultural growth and commercialization is the “Let Them Grow Healthy” initiative. Through this initiative, “USAID will invest $23 million and the private sector will match this by also contributing $23 million.” Specifically, the initiative will aim to invest in companies that have the potential to aid the Malawian government’s goals related to increasing the country’s food security and nutrition services.

Roughly 5.4 million Malawians face moderate or severe food insecurity. Initiatives such as this one are a step in the right direction for encouraging the growth and development of new, accessible and nutrient-rich food products and services.

Feed the Future Initiative

In another major victory for the future of agriculture in Malawi, at the recent G7 Leaders’ Summit in Germany, U.S. President Joe Biden announced the expansion of the Feed the Future Initiative to include several new African countries, Malawi among them.

Developed by the U.S. in 2010, Feed the Future works to identify the root causes of hunger and poverty around the globe and address them by “boosting inclusive agriculture-led economic growth, resilience and nutrition in countries with great need and opportunity for improvement.” Feed the Future is widely regarded as the U.S.’s flagship agricultural development program. USAID Administrator Samantha Powers, responding to the expansion, briefly summed up its significance for Malawi. She stated that “This will mean an intensification of our efforts to strengthen food security, poverty reduction and agricultural growth in the country.”

According to USAID, in Malawi, among other things, Feed the Future will specifically work to:

  • Develop strategies for long-term agricultural development
  • Train farmers to utilize new practices and technologies to boost productivity
  • Improve nutrition and curb child mortality
  • Work with the Government of Malawi to “develop enabling agricultural policies.”

Future at Glance

Harsh climate shocks and limited economic growth have had a negative impact on many Malawians’ way of life in the agricultural sector in recent years. However, with these current programs in place and others scheduled to take place, hope is certainly on the horizon.

Given the significant strides Malawi has made in other areas of its country— such as increased access to education, the prioritization of gender equality, as well as the reduction of some income inequality between the rich and the poor — Malawi is certainly capable of positive change. With this strong support from the U.S. and its continued partnership with the Government of Malawi, agriculture in Malawi might just see a similar chance for improvement.

– Riley Wooldridge
Photo: Flickr

Efforts to Improve Credit Access in Malawi
Although the Southern African country of Malawi is small, its arable topography and high population have contributed to its economic growth. With a population of more than 19 million, Malawi has a GDP of about $6.3 billion and has had a steady growth of at least 2 percent annually. Despite this economic growth, poverty and hunger remain serious issues in the country. These issues have indirect links to credit access in Malawi, and through improved credit in the country, Malawians could experience a decrease in overall poverty.

Credit Limitations In Malawi

Credit access in Malawi, like in other sub-Saharan countries, is particularly limited in rural areas. These rural areas are typically those most in need of access to formal loans for business and agricultural endeavors. Only 11.7 percent of rural Malawians took out loans in the last year, and only 40.3 percent of those were acquired formally through banks. Credit supply in Malawi also requires collateral and comes with high-interest rates and specific conditions for borrowers. These conditions make it extremely difficult for Malawians to qualify for credit. In fact, The World Bank ranks Malawi a low 109 out of 129 countries because accessing credit for small business is so difficult.

Lack of credit access in Malawi has an indirect correlation to nutrition and economic development in rural areas. According to studies conducted by the International Food Policy Research Institute, households with more livestock and land have fewer opportunities to access formal credit. Credit access is also affected by the crops grown by Malawians. Tobacco is often grown by farmers to offset credit costs and make more money than maize farmers, but they are more nutritionally deficient than their counterparts. Some farmers can gain access to small amounts of credit depending on their crop’s nutritional or agricultural profit.

Improving Access To Credit in Malawi

Several organizations are currently attempting to better credit access in Malawi in order to decrease poverty and hunger issues throughout the country. The World Food Programme (WFP) buys food directly from small, rural farmers in Malawi through a system called The Warehouse Receipt System. This market facilitation is managed by WFP and offers farmers receipts for crops that have been cleaned and graded to use as collateral for formal bank loans. These economic opportunities for small farmers have led to increased loan access and have also promoted a structured market demand in the country. For women in particular, who constitute 42 percent farmers in the program, the gender gap in the agricultural industry is slowly being closed.

Financial organizations, like the Malawi Union of Saving and Credit Cooperatives (MUSCCO), also operate in the country to improve credit access. MUSCCO’s goal is to organize and develop Saving and Credit Cooperative Organizations (SACCOs) in Malawi in order to mobilize capital and meet the developmental needs of Malawians. These SACCOs, in turn, work with stakeholders and banks in order to further economic development in the country and create diversified financial opportunities.

Limited credit access in Malawi, much like other developing countries, constricts the country’s economy and range of financial operations. Malawian farmers are particularly limited in their access to formal loans that would instigate economic growth. With the assistance of organizations like The World Food Program and SACCOs, not only would credit access in Malawi improve for farmers but it would also help to decrease poverty and improve economic development.

– Matthew Cline
Photo: Flickr

The end to extreme poverty will not occur solely as a result of charities, businesses or governments. Defeating extreme poverty entails changing the rules, systems and structures that are designed to keep people poor. Change must occur through a country’s specific policies and practices that contribute to keeping people in extreme poverty.

Countries should ensure that governments, businesses and individuals act to establish alignment in the vested interests of the world’s poor. If executed progressively and strategically, such systems, structures, policies and processes can make a change. Five countries have made a boisterous and public commitment to ending poverty – Brazil, Colombia, Malawi, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Brazil – The Bolsa Familia Program

Efforts to end extreme poverty in Brazil originated from Bolsa Familia. The program directly transfers cash to pre-designated households deemed impoverished. The decisions about allocation are based on assessments of the depth of poverty rather than household composition. Over 45 million people are currently enrolled in the program. As a direct result of Bolsa Familia, the number of those living in extreme poverty in Brazil has dropped from 20.4 million to 11.9 million.

Colombia – Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative

In 2010, Colombia created a poverty reduction plan and multidimensional solution to address poverty. Their national development plan has three pillars: employment, poverty reduction and security. Due to a lack of successful poverty reduction results by the original program, adoption of a new poverty reduction strategy called the GOC occurred. According to the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, the strategy outlines the poverty index designed to monitor and measure different indicators of multidimensional poverty. This initiative will reflect the multiple deprivations that people suffer by identifying disparities across health, education and living standards. It will indicate the number of people who are poor on a multidimensional level and assist in allocating funds and determining efforts to eliminate extreme poverty.

Malawi – Malawi Growth and Development Strategy and the Farm Input Subsidy Programme

In 2002, the Malawian government launched the Malawi Poverty Reduction Strategy (MPRS), which had the express purpose of achieving “sustainable poverty reduction through empowerment of the poor.” In 2005, the MPRS was reorganized as the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS). Currently, the MGDS comprises the overarching policy framework for social and economic development to reduce extreme poverty. In 2005, the Farm Input Subsidy Programme was introduced as a measure to increase agricultural production. In an effort to ensure food security, the government provides subsidized agricultural inputs to farmers with smaller land holdings. This has matured into agricultural policy. An estimated 50 percent of the Ministry of Agriculture’s budget is spent on methods to reduce expenditures of research and extension. The subsidy program is now a firmly established pillar of Malawian agricultural policy.

The United Kingdom – The Department for International Development

In the United Kingdom, The Department for International Development (DFID) leads national efforts to end extreme poverty. Their primary areas of focus are creating jobs, empowering girls and women and saving lives. The DFID honors the international commitments and purpose to achieve the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. Their objectives are achieved through the effective improvement of governmental transparency, openness and value of money and policy development on economic growth and wealth creation.

The United States – USAID

In the United States, the USAID is the leading agency that works to end extreme global poverty. Their philosophy suggests an interconnected world in which instability anywhere around the world can impact us domestically. Thus, the focus is on military collaboration in active conflicts, efforts to stabilize countries and the building of responsive local governance. Essentially, the main objective is to utilize the transition period between conflict and long-term development by investing in agriculture, health systems and democratic institutions.

In order to end global extreme poverty, we must invest in common solutions. If all countries make the pledge commitment to end 0.7 percent of poverty, we can end extreme poverty by 2030.

– Erika Wright

Sources: Global Citizen, Global Humanitarian Assistance, Global Poverty Project, UK GOV Rural Poverty Portal, World Bank USAID
Photo: The Atlantic