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Poverty in Malawi
Malawi is a landlocked African country that is bordered by Tanzania to the northeast, Mozambique to the south and Zambia to the west. The impact of poverty in Malawi can be seen prominently in the agriculture sector.

Malawi ranks 160 out of the existing 182 sovereign nations on the Human Development Index and is currently one of the world’s poorest nations. Nearly three-fourths of the population lives on less than a $1.25 a day, and approximately 90 percent live on less than $2 a day.

Agriculture makes up 35 percent of Malawi’s gross domestic product (GDP), and nearly 85 percent of Malawians are employed in the agricultural sector.

Maize is typically grown for local markets; small-scale farmers typically grow various fruits and vegetables such as pineapples, guava, mangoes, lemons, green peppers, cabbage, cucumbers and eggplants.

Agricultural growth in Malawi is often limited and difficult to effectively sustain due to reoccurring droughts in the region. Nearly 80 percent of Malawians are smallholder farmers who rely on their crops to feed their families and communities.

Malawi experiences extreme weather conditions — periods of drought and flooding — that contribute to widespread famine and destroyed infrastructure.

USAID reports that they are currently developing the National Nutrition Policy and Strategic Plan that is closely related to the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) plan, and the Agriculture Sector-Wide Approach to promote agriculture and address food insecurity at the national and local levels to reduce poverty in Malawi.

Feed the Future, USAID reports, is working closely with the Malawian government to devise policies to promote agricultural sustainability, improve access to food and invest in crops such as legumes and dairy that would expand domestic and export markets for Malawi to help their economy prosper.

Through the Feed the Future initiative, USAID helped trained farmers on better farming techniques to increase productivity and provided financial and marketing services to farmers as well. USAID reported that they are committed to promoting private sector development by strengthening government institutional capacity that will accelerate long lasting agricultural sustainability.

Since the beginning of the initiative, milk productivity has substantially increased by 52 percent. USAID has also successfully in organized 23,000 Malawians from rural villages into savings-and-loans groups. Adding to that success, USAID trained 60,000 farmers on new agricultural technologies and techniques that would improve irrigation and crop harvesting.

The Feed the Future initiative aims to improve the vulnerability of rural smallholder farmers to help them escape poverty and hunger. Also, they plan to impact the lives of 293,000 children in helping to provide better nutrition to reverse growth stunting and prevent infant mortality.

Economic issues and food shortage issues have historically affected the poverty in Malawi; however, the successful partnership between the Feed the Future initiative and the Malawian government continues to improve agricultural techniques, farming technologies and promote food security for impoverished communities.

Haylee Gardner

Photo: Flickr