Agriculture plays a central role in Malawi’s economy. Despite these successes, the sector is constrained by a variety of challenges including land scarcity in many rural areas, climatic events such as drought and floods which have had negative impacts on food and water security, as well as the sustainable livelihoods of rural people. A growing population and poverty have led to pressure on the environment and major degradation of Malawi’s land and forests.

The following thematic areas of policy and investment interest will be explored in Malawi over the next three years:

Theme: Equity

The NLA in Malawi is working with members to raise awareness of the Land Act and its implications for equitable SAI.  NLA members are also debating the future for small holders in the face of large-scale agricultural commercialisation and the distribution of subsidies. 

Policy for equity in agriculture

Researchers from the University of Malawi with Lund University are analysing long term household trends in agricultural intensification within the Ntchisi and Dedza districts in order to understand how gender, generation, and land-holding size affect their capacity to increase agricultural productivity. Results are discussed with District officials and other stakeholders and training will be given to firms and service providers improve equity in their own practices and to policymakers to more effectively integrate equity within agricultural policy development and implementation.

Tools for equity in SAI

SAIRLA-funded researchers from the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture are examining the most effective and feasible tools for identifying the different outcomes of agricultural intensification by gender and youth. The tools and guides developed will help increase the capacity of decision makers to analyse potential inequities in those who benefit from land reform and agricultural development and identify strategies to address them. 

Theme: Trade-offs

Programmes aimed at increasing agricultural productivity often do not consider farmers’ perceptions of trade-offs and synergies, and as a result may not reach some of the most marginalised farmers. The NLA in Malawi is looking at how farmers can ‘produce more with less’ by intensifying their production in a sustainable way that also increases their resilience to shocks.

Supporting smallholder farmer decision making

Researchers from Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Total Land Care and IIED are studying farmer’s perspectives of trade offs and synergies. Their findings will contribute to the evidence base for effective policies that support farmers to adopt SAI and help them to manage trade-offs for resilience, sustainability and productivity. 

Theme: Services

In spite of agricultural policies that prioritise marginalised smallholders, a lack of access to services and markets constrains their ability to respond to uncertainty and risk. 

Smallholder risk management solutions

Researchers from the Bunda College of Agriculture with Oxford Policy Management are investigating the risk factors that smallholders face in SAI and exploring the strategies that can be put in place to manage them. The project focuses on the pigeon pea value chain in the Phalombe District in southern Malawi and developing a business model that enables poor smallholder farmers and other actors in the value chain to manage production and market risks.

NLA members are also working together to devise extension services that better serve the needs of farmers and how best to address the limited capacity and knowledge on SAI methodologies among extension service providers and agricultural graduates. 

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