Malawi has had a strong focus on agriculture and food security since independence, with policies and structures giving guidance to the sector. More recently specific policies on nutrition, gender and EAS have been produced.
Malawi’s national development framework, Vision 2020, aims to build Malawi into “a God-fearing nation, secure, democratically mature, environmentally sustainable, self-reliant with equal opportunities for and active participation by all, having social services, vibrant cultural and religious values and being a technologically driven middle-income economy” (Malawi National Economic Council, 1998). Malawi’s National Growth and Development Strategies (MGDS II) aim to create wealth and reduce poverty through economic growth and infrastructure development. Other country policies focused on agricultural development include:
- National Agricultural Policy (2011 and updated in 2016 ) – a clear and comprehensive policy in agriculture, which guides Malawi to achieve transformation of the agriculture sector
- Malawi Agricultural Sector Wide Approach (ASWAp, 2011 – 2015) – the priority investment program for the agricultural sector, aimed at six percent annual agricultural growth and allocating 10 percent of national budget to agriculture in line with Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) and the Malabo Declaration
- Agricultural Extension in the New Millennium (2000 – ) – the existing agricultural extension policy, although a new one is currently being developed
- The District Agricultural Extension Services System (DAESS, 2006 – ) – a guide for implementing a demand-driven and decentralized EAS system
- Agriculture Sector Gender, HIV and AIDS Strategy (2012 – 2017) – a guide with components aiming to increase percentage of women extension workers and women who have access to extension services; and to develop specific EAS strategies targeting vulnerable households having members living with HIV
- Food Security Policy (2006 – ) – indicating roles of the extension system in promoting adoption of agricultural technologies, sustainable agriculture, livestock health and other areas to ensure food security in Malaw
The two polices below recognize nutrition is a cross-cutting issue and call for joint planning for an agriculture-nutrition system and the positioning of nutrition specialists in the EAS system.
National Nutrition Policy and Strategic Plan (2007 – 2011) – a plan addressing nutrition disorders and deficiencies among the population
Nutrition Education and Communication Strategy (2011 – 2016) – an implementation guide of the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement in Malawi
An important government initiative is the Farm Input Subsidy Program (FISP). Because national food self-sufficiency is a high priority of the GoM, the goal of FISP is to enhance food self- sufficiency by increasing smallholder farmers’ access to and use of improved agricultural inputs, thereby boosting the incomes of resource-poor farmers (Chibwana and Fisher, 2011). FISP is administered through vouchers with which eligible households purchase inputs, such as fertilizer, hybrid seed and pesticides at reduced prices. The program targets smallholder farmers who own land and are legitimate residents of their villages. In a study on their impacts, Chibwana and Fisher (2011:1) found that poor households that received FISP vouchers were better off than non- recipients and that receipt of FISP vouchers was associated with increased fertilizer use, higher maize yields, and expansion of maize production.
A consensus of findings among existing literature indicates that most of the key elements of these policies, related strategies and approaches are not implemented or are poorly implemented due to lack of implementation documents, little or no budgets and minimal enforceability and accountability. Furthermore, most are old or ending soon, with no discrete plans to review or revise them apart from the agricultural extension policy which is current being revised (more in the next section).
In 2014, Malawi invested 0.53 percent of total agricultural GDP in agricultural research and development (R&D), despite rapid population growth, a shrinking natural resource base, climate change effects on agriculture and changing consumption patterns (Beintema, Makoko & Gao, 2016). In comparison, in 2008, the agricultural research intensity ratio for middle-income countries was 0.6 percent and for high-income countries was three percent (Flaherty, 2011). Due the slowing economic growth, Malawi’s agricultural research spending has fallen substantially since 2012. In 2014, over 64 percent of the agricultural R&D funding came from the government, which has steadily fallen since 2012. Donors and development banks contributed one third of the funding in the same year. In 2015, government institutions accounted for around 55 percent of the Malawian agricultural researcher hires.
Higher education institutes have hired an increasing number of agricultural researchers since 2000. In 2015, around 37 percent of the Malawi researchers focusing on agricultural R&D worked in these education institutes. More than half of the agriculture research focuses on crop production; the three most studied crops include tobacco, beans and maize (Beintema, Makoko & Gao, 2016).
International and domestic public research institutes support the EAS system. For example, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) together with the erstwhile USAID project Modernizing Extension and Advisory Services (MEAS) conducted policy reviews and impact evaluations on Malawi’s EAS system. Other research centers, such as the International Potato Center (CIP) and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), work with EAS and NGOs to promote new crop varieties (such as pigeon peas and pro-vitamin A orange-fleshed sweet potatoes) and increase the production, consumption and marketing of these new crops.
Domestic research institutes include:
- Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR)
- Natural Resource College (NRC)
- Agricultural Research & Extension Trust (ARET)
- Chitedze Research Station
- Bvumbwe Agriculture Research Station
- Centre for Tick and Tick-Borne Diseases (CTTBD)
- Fisheries Research Station (FRS)
- Department of Agricultural Research Services (DAR)
- Forestry Research Institute of Malawi (FRIM)
- Tea Research Foundation of Central Africa (TRFCA)
Only 20 percent of the agricultural researchers were female in 2014, and 13 percent of the research focused on socioeconomic-related issues in agricultural development. The main funding sources for agricultural research are the GoM and donor agencies.
The Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the Natural Resource College are two main institutes providing higher education to agricultural extension workers. More details on their training is found in the next section.
List of Extension Providers
The following list shows an excerpt from the GFRAS Directory of Extension Providers for Malawi. Some of these entries may be specially marked for having more detailed information in the database of the Worldwide Extension Study WWES.