New US$53 million agricultural development programme launched in Malawi to combat food insecurity

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By Panagrimedia Correspondent, July 3, 2024, 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 Government of Malawi launched a US$53 million agricultural development programme today that seeks to commercialise agriculture production and enhance the resilience of small-scale farming systems for improved 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 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 important for women, as they account for more than half the country’s population and provide bulk of the work force in the sector, and hence they make up 50 per cent of the project participants.

“SAPP II represents a critical investment in the future of Malawian agriculture,” said Bernadette Mukonyora, IFAD Country Director, 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 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), 80 per cent 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 hard for them to both meet their own food requirements 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 program 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 to Sustainable Development goals and aligned with 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 have a bearing on food security.

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

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

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