With a mainly rural population – 85% of the 15,3 million Malawians – and depending on rain-fed agriculture, Malawi faces high poverty rates – especially in the rural areas, where 43% of the population live under poverty conditions. The country is ranked 170th in the 2012 UNDP Human Development Index and according to the World Bank, over 50% of the population lives under the national poverty line. Moreover, the country is one of the most seriously HIV-affected countries in the world (12% amongst adults aged 15-49 years). Ev
en though it presents reasonably good food security at the national level, Malawi still faces great challenges to assure that all Malawians can actually meet their annual food requirements. A recent assessment, points that 11% of the population is to face annual food deficits during the 2012-2013 consumption year. The food deficit has been experienced
as a result of late on-set of planting rains, erratic rainfall pattern and prolonged dry spells. Nonetheless, the country has lots of potential to explore in agriculture, due to the availability of water resources.
Food and Nutrition Security
According with FAO, the nutritional status of the Malawian population remains critical, as food intake lacks diversity and proper quantity. As poverty is prevalent, agricultural productivity is rather low and the country is very vulnerable to external shocks, food insecurity is widespread among the population. Both in the 1990s and in 2001-2002, Malawi was affected by drought-induced famine. And FAO reports that in 2005, the country faced a serious food crisis during which about a third of the population was in need of food assistance. Estimates show that a large proportion of the population is undernourished, a third of all Malawians a decade ago. Nonetheless, there is in the country a food security policy framework, composed by different pieces involving many sectors of the government. Overall, it shows a strong engagement of the government to promote food security and agricultural development in Malawi.
Agriculture is the most important sector of the Malawian economy, employing about 80 percent of the workforce. It also accounts for over 80 percent of foreign exchange earnings and 39 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and contributes significantly to national and household food security. The agricultural sector has two main sub-sectors: the smallholder sub-sector, contributing more than 70 percent, and the estate sub-sector, contributing less than 30 percent to agricultural GDP. Smallholders have access to an average of 0.33 ha1 of arable land and rely on rainfed agriculture, with limited crop diversification. Maize is the main staple food for Malawians, however, other food crops such as cassava, sweet and irish potatoes, pulses, groundnuts and rice are alternatives to maize in many parts of the country. Furthermore, these are complemented by livestock and fish products.
Malawi has nearly achieved universal access to primary education, but attendance and completion rates are low and repetition rates are high. Hungry and malnourished children are more likely to drop out or absent themselves; they tend to have poor concentration, skip homework, perform poorly and experience difficulties in learning. This perpetuates an inter-generational cycle of malnutrition and vulnerability, which will have significant consequences for human capital, productivity and economic development. In this context, Malawi’s National Education Sector Plan outlines the Government’s long-term vision for improving educational quality, equity, access and efficiency. Providing school health and nutrition services, including school meals, for all children in public primary schools is seen as a guiding principle.
School feeding is the oldest and most widespread SHN intervention, currently covering about 30% of Malawian schools. Its importance has been recently reinforced by the National School Meals Programme (NSMP), launched in 2011, calling for: an expansion of School Meals across the country and a shift to government ownership. Among the models to operate the NSMP, there is the model of Direct Funding to Schools, which is very in line with the proposal of LFPIs, whereby it promotes the direct purchase from farmers and farmers’ organizations.
PAA Africa activities
Activities in Malawi count on strong support from Government authorities. Farmers’ groups around schools have been identified and preliminary activities are being launched in preparation for capacity building, crop production and marketing. FAO will focus on school gardens, which will transfer crop management knowledge, as well as supplementing school feeding. WFP, in collaboration with other stakeholders, has developed a diversified set of menus and is supporting training on food procurement, storage and preparation for schools. A partnership with local NGO Malawi Lake Basin will further support farmers.
The current context, with increasing potential of the agricultural sector for the promotion of local purchases programmes and the national plans to scale up the School feeding programme, are more than adequate for the promotion of Home Grown School Feeding (HGSF).
The PAA project in Malawi intends to expand the implementation of a home-grown school meals approach, which involves:
- supporting producers to increase and improve production of diversified products;
- using the P4P expertise to adjust school feeding procurement procedures; and
- engaging producers in the market so they are able to supply food commodities to the school meals programme and to other buyers.
The expected end result would be a school meals programme that distributes the right quality and quantity of locally produced food to children in targeted schools at the right time and increases knowledge about the use of locally available food. This pilot project is designed in such a way as to provide lessons and be scalable by the Government and the communities that it supports.
The initiative will incorporate the lessons learnt from previous experiences, in particular those related to enhance community dynamics, involve different levels of the Government in the planning and implementing and close follow up of the initiative.
• Increased awareness among community of local production, food and nutrition and how these can be applied at community, school and household level;
• Purchasing modalities of school meals programme adapted to suit school capacities and local procurement/farmer organizations’ constraints;
• Increased access to education and human capital development in assisted schools;
• Increased diversification of production through school gardens and enhanced production systems;
• Increased revenue of smallholder farmers from sales to the home-grown school meals programme; and
• Government capacity to implement a home-grown school meals programme in a sustainable and efficient way.
• Identification of areas: considering criteria for farmer organizations and schools, field visits and preliminary discussions with local representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Education. This identification will also include a capacity assessment of the different actors to be involved in the initiative.
• Training phase for schools: planning of school meals menus and pipeline/technical training for school garden facilitators.
• Support to farmer organization production: providing inputs, if not available at organization level, for the demonstration of different production techniques and marketing skills in order for farmer organizations to sell products to school meals programme and others actors in the market.
• Procurement activities: direct purchases from farmer organizations and procurement training to the school committees for their own purchases from organizations and the market.
Learn more about Malawi’s model: Malawi Project Summary
FAO Malawi Country Profile
Country Profile: Human Development Indicators
World Bank Page: Malawi
Malawi’s profile on the Rural Poverty Portal
Our Partners in Malawi