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Malawi Launches $53m Programme To Boost Food Security

MALAWI, a country highly vulnerable to climate shocks and widespread hunger, is taking a crucial step to improve food security for its citizens. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the government have launched a $53 million agricultural development programme aimed at commercialising agricultural production and enhancing the resilience of small-scale farming systems to improve income, food, and nutrition security in the country.

The seven-year Sustainable Agriculture Production Programme Phase II (SAPP II) will equip farmers with the skills and resources needed to address food insecurity, increase income generation, and improve the livelihoods of rural communities in Dowa, Balaka, Lilongwe Rural, and Mzimba. The project is particularly significant for women, who constitute more than half of the country’s population and the majority of the agricultural workforce, making up 50 percent of the project’s participants.

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‘SAPP II represents a critical investment in the future of Malawian agriculture,’ said Bernadette Mukonyora, IFAD Country Director for Malawi. ‘The launch is a significant step towards a food-secure future. By empowering small-scale farmers, particularly women, and promoting sustainable farming practices, the programme has the potential to transform the agricultural sector, improve livelihoods, and contribute to a more prosperous nation.’

Agriculture is the backbone of Malawi’s economy, accounting for 22.1 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), 80 percent of foreign earnings, and employing over three-quarters of the workforce. Despite this, half of all farmers cultivate on less than one hectare and rely on rainfall, making it challenging to meet their own food needs and generate surplus for the market. This challenge is compounded by climate change, land degradation, limited resources, weak extension systems, high post-harvest losses, and unstructured markets.

SAPP II aims to tackle these challenges head-on. The programme will promote soil, land, and water management practices to enhance soil fertility, restore degraded land, and lessen the pressure on natural resources already strained by climate shocks.

‘With less than six years to go to 2030, the launch of SAPP II is timely,’ said Samuel Kawale, Minister of Agriculture. ‘It offers the country an opportunity to unlock the sector’s potential, increase productivity, create wealth, and improve food and nutrition security. These are key indicators aligned with Sustainable Development Goals and Malawi Agenda 2063.’

To make small-scale farming systems more commercially viable, SAPP II will support value chains based on market demand, production potential, job creation, and the ability to improve food security and nutrition. Legumes, fruits, and vegetables are potential commodities with the dual benefit of increasing incomes and diversifying household diets.

The programme will also facilitate farmers’ access to finance through the Farmers Challenge Fund (FCF), offering matching grant support to purchase productive farm inputs, agro-processing equipment, and post-harvest technologies.

Recognising Malawi’s vulnerability to continuous climatic shocks, SAPP II is designed with flexibility. Funds can be re-allocated to address immediate needs such as providing immediate access to farm inputs and repairs to infrastructure damaged by climate shocks that impact food security.

To fund the programme, IFAD is providing $18.08 million, the Government of Malawi $8 million, domestic financing $3 million from a pass-on revolving scheme, and the European Union $2.6 million. A financing envelope of  $15.6 million is still open to interested financiers.

Since 1981, IFAD has invested more than $426 million in 15 rural development programmes and projects in Malawi, worth a total of almost $638 million. These interventions have directly benefited more than 2 million rural families.

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