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Malawians aspire for all members of all households to have access to adequate and safe food at all times of the year to meet their nutritional requirements.

To achieve this aspiration, the following strategic issues will have to be addressed: increasing food production; developing irrigation; developing the livestock sub-sector; improving efficiency of markets; reducing post harvest losses; improving disaster management; improving land utilization and management; economically empowering vulnerable groups; promoting non-farm income generating activities; and improving nutrition status of the people.


6.2.1 Increasing Food Crop Production Strategic Challenge
The main problem is that there is emphasis on maize as the staple food. Consequently, 75% of smallholder land has been allocated to maize production. In addition, yields are low owing partly to the fact that a small proportion of farmers use fertilizer. There has been lack of enterprise diversification due to dependence on maize. Research and extension has not been effective in generating the technology to maintain food security and in encouraging diversification of agricultural production.

The challenge to increasing food production is to ensure that average yields are increased and crop and enterprise diversification are enhanced to reduce dependence on maize. Strategic Options
Strategic options to address the issue of increasing food crop production and productivity include:

  1. improving agricultural technology generation and transfer through increasing level of investment in agricultural research;
  2. improving effectiveness of extension delivery and coverage; encouraging research scientists and extension staff to conduct surveys together with farmers to identify the socioeconomic circumstance in order to set priorities with farmers;
  3. promoting enterprise diversification in order to reduce dependence on maize;
  4. promoting intercropping grain legumes with other crops to reduce the risk of total crop failure;
  5. promoting civic education to intensify productivity per unit area;
  6. promoting mixed cropping to reduce the risk of total crop failure and improve soil fertility;
  7. encouraging political leaders and community leaders to collaborate in the promotion of crop diversification, mixed cropping and crops that do not use purchased inputs;
  8. encouraging community leaders to visit research stations and extension staff to learn about new technologies;
  9. promoting area specific fertilizer recommendations as opposed to blanket recommendations; and
  10. promoting crops in areas, which are suitable for growing such crops.
6.2.2 Developing the Livestock Sub-Sector Strategic Challenge
There is low Per Capita consumption of animal protein in Malawi with negative nutrition consequences. For example, in 1990 per capita consumption of animal protein was estimated at 6.3kg, which is less than 12.5 kg average for Africa. The livestock sub-sector has not received adequate attention in the past despite the fact that it has enormous potential for contributing to food security, nutrition and incomes.

The challenge is to develop the livestock sub-sector so that it makes the nation self-sufficient in animal products and export profitably any surplus that may arise. Strategic Options
Strategic options to developing the livestock sub-sector include:

  1. developing small scale dairy production by promoting farmer cooperatives and introducing improved animals;
  2. promoting beef production through development of feedlots;
  3. promoting farmer groups and cooperatives to curb cattle theft;
  4. imposing strict penalties on culprits and intensifying animal permits;
  5. commercializing the poultry industry; and
  6. developing the animal feed industry and encouraging livestock keeping that increases animal manure for crop production.
6.2.3 Irrigation Development Strategic Challenge
Agricultural production and productivity can be increased through use of irrigation. Irrigation has received low priority in the past despite the fact that irrigation can significantly contribute to the development of this country by stabilizing production in times of drought, and promoting diversification into high value crops.

The challenge is to extend and improve irrigation so as to stabilize production in times of drought, promoting diversification into high value crops and facilitate crop intensification so as to increase agricultural productivity. Strategic Options
Strategic options to address the issue of developing irrigation include:

  1. developing potential areas with best chance of success taking into account social factors, cost effectiveness and financial viability;
  2. developing irrigation schemes which are owned, operated and maintained by the farmers;
  3. developing various types of irrigation using pump and gravity based systems that use both surface and ground water sources;
  4. enhancing national capacities for developing irrigation;
  5. providing support to smallholders;
  6. encouraging the development of irrigation both by groups of smallholders, individual smallholder farmers and estates; encouraging private sector development of irrigated agriculture;
  7. encouraging farmers to use rain harvesting technics and encouraging construction of dams;
  8. promoting involvement of women in community organizations and irrigation developments; and
  9. encouraging indigenous irrigation methods.
6.2.4 Improving the Efficiency of Markets Strategic Challenge
The country's market information system is under-developed. There is also lack of packaging technology, which could improve product presentation, inefficient use of land, and underdeveloped financial markets to serve the majority of farmers.

The challenge is how to develop an efficient agricultural market system where farmers and traders make informed decisions based on market signals. Strategic options
The strategic options to address the issue of efficiency of markets include:

  1. ensuring that credit is made available to the majority of farmers;
  2. encouraging financial institutions to mobilize rural savings;
  3. creating an enabling environment for reducing credit risks;
  4. establishing community based credit revolving funds;
  5. encouraging producers and traders to organize themselves into groups to enjoy economies of scale;
  6. making inputs and produce readily available at various points of distribution, supported by proper handling and packaging;
  7. establishing a land market;
  8. improving the market information system; and
  9. improving agricultural policy analysis in collaboration with NGOs and the private sector.
6.2.5 Improving Land Utilization and Management Strategic Challenge
Increasing pressure on land due to population increases and poor soil conservation has contributed to degradation of a large proportion of land.

The challenge is to ensure that degraded land is rehabilitated in order to restore its productivity. Strategic Options
Strategic options include:

  1. reviewing and enforcing Land Acts in order to safeguard the productivity of land resources;
  2. integrating land use planning into farming systems;
  3. encouraging the use of organic manure;
  4. encouraging communal catchment conservation, and soil conservation measures such as appropriate grasses and terraces;
  5. encouraging mixed cropping;
  6. encouraging growing crops in suitable areas; and
  7. developing and implementing a comprehensive land rehabilitation programme.
6.2.6 Reducing Post Harvest Losses Strategic Challenge
Post-harvest loss is one of the major factors lowering final availability of farm produce. The losses occur in the stages of transportation, storage, processing and preservation. The losses compromise food security.

In the 1995/96 season, Malawi's post harvest losses for major food crops (maize, rice, pulses, groundnuts and sweet potatoes) were estimated at between 5 and 25 percent.

The strategic challenge is to develop clear policy and programmes on post harvest technology in order to reduce losses to less than 5%. Strategic Options
The strategic options available for reducing post harvest losses include:

  1. supporting research in low cost post-harvest technology with financial and human resources;
  2. promoting crop varieties with less susceptibility to post-harvest losses;
  3. ensuring that the findings of research benefit farmers by developing guidelines on storage, processing and preservation for each of the major food commodities;
  4. introducing village or community storage facilities to realize economies of scale;
  5. training personnel in post-harvest handling processing preservation and storage of food crops;
  6. promoting cottage industries on food processing in rural areas to provide employment as well as improve food processing and preservation; and
  7. making the foods available to the consumers at affordable prices.
6.2.7 Improving Disaster Management Strategic Challenge
Malawi does not have a national disaster plan that can serve as a basis for mitigation and responding to disasters.

The challenge is for Malawi to mitigate and manage disasters effectively in order to ensure national food security and nutrition. Strategic Options
The strategic options to improve disaster management include:

  1. putting in place a sound national disaster management plan,
  2. having adequate and appropriately located staple food storage facility in every district;
  3. making budgetary allocations for financing strategic reserves; and
  4. encouraging local initiatives for disaster preparedness.
6.2.8 Improving Nutritional Status Strategic Challenge
In Malawi, diets are bulky and monotonous. Meals consist of "nsima" made from maize or cassava flour taken together with cooked vegetable dishes. The result is a high level of chronic under nutrition and micronutrient deficiencies.

The challenge is to ensure that the majority of Malawians have access to the necessary energy, proteins and micro-nutrients needed for active healthy life. Strategic Options
The strategic options to improve nutritional status are:

  1. changing the existing knowledge, attitudes and dietary practices of households in all socio- economic groups of both urban and rural areas;
  2. developing diversified dietary guidelines;
  3. employing innovative nutrition education strategies;
  4. developing and employing social marketing techniques;
  5. developing innovative communication strategies aimed at improving the current dietary patterns and lifestyles; and
  6. identifying different ways of preserving and storing food.
6.2.9 Promoting Non-Farm Income Generating Activities

6.2.9 1 Strategic Challenge
Food security is partly linked with the incomes of people. Thus, efforts to increase the rural non-farm incomes will have a positive effect on food security and nutrition.

The challenge is therefore to raise people's incomes to such a level that they can afford to purchase enough food at all times. Strategic Options
Options for increasing the incomes of the masses include:

  1. promoting off-farm income generating activities;
  2. increasing rural employment opportunities by, for example, increasing rural industrialization;
  3. increasing opportunities for people to engage in business enterprises by, for example, widening access to enterpreneurship training and credit.
6.2.10 Economic Empowerment of Vulnerable Groups Strategic Challenge
The conventional top-down approach to implementation of agricultural programmes often neglected certain sections of the community and failed to reach the targeted poor members of the society. As a result, there is significant proportion of resource poor smallholders, especially female-headed households, that do not benefit from the various programmes.

The challenge is to design programmes that will address the majority of resource poor households. Strategic Options
Options include:

  1. identifying groups for targeted assistance;
  2. designing programmes to address special needs of the groups;
  3. providing civic education;
  4. designing programmes which could make inputs affordable such as low interest credit, the voucher system; and
  5. promoting local fund raising programmes.
6.2.11 Improving Policy Analysis Strategic Challenge
The formulation and implementation of policies should be carefully analyzed to understand their implications. At macro-level, policies need to be analyzed in terms of their impact on food security and nutrition, agriculture and natural resources to see whether goals and objectives are being achieved.

The strategic challenge to improving policy analysis is to deploy adequate human resources to do the analysis, and cultivate respect for use of professional analysis of agriculture issues. Strategic Options
The strategic options for improving policy analysis include:

  1. deploying personnel that have the right training, and providing incentives for them; and
  2. conducting courses for policy makers and politicians on need for use of sound policy analysis.
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