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The recent flooding in southern Malawi has submerged 35 000 hectares of cropland under water, swept away livestock and displaced some 174 000 people. The interrupted agricultural cycle threatens the already vulnerable food security and livelihoods of those that depend on agriculture – an estimated 86 percent of the country. Since early January 2015 the floods have affected nearly 116 000 farmers, and this number may rise as the rains continue.

Malawi’s small-scale producers – who make up the vast majority of farmers – are struggling to produce enough to feed themselves and their families. Small landholdings, little access to credit, limited technological know-how and poor market access make it difficult for farmers to move from subsistence to commercial production. And frequent shocks, like dry spells and flooding during the cropping season, outbreaks of crop and livestock diseases and high food prices, are further undermining their livelihoods.

Working closely with the Government, FAO Malawi developed a four-year Plan of Action through which FAO is seeking to help reduce the risk and impact of disasters on food and nutrition security in the country.

Preparing for and recovering from disasters

As the scale and intensity of disasters becomes more frequent in Malawi – linked to climate change and a degrading environment – FAO has been working to help farmers prepare for and resist the effects of drought and floods.

An estimated 640 000 people did not have enough food in 2014 – a sharp decline from the 1.46 million people estimated in 2013. Although food security conditions have improved, localized production declines remain a concern. Below-average rains in 2014 delayed the planting of 2015 crops, which may have been affected by the recent floods. A missed planting season would mean farmers could not plant again until November/December and would not harvest food until March/April 2016.

Moving towards long-term development

The recurrence of droughts and floods makes recovery progressively more difficult for communities when livelihoods are already weakened by poverty. FAO is working to help families transition from emergency and relief assistance to longer-term development by addressing the underlying factors that heighten household vulnerability at the same time as response interventions are implemented.

FAO Malawi is promoting improved cropping practices like conservation agriculture. This involves training not only farmers, but also extension workers who will continue to train farmers over the years, in good agricultural practices, integrated production and pest management and other new technologies. Farmers also receive high quality inputs to ensure they achieve better harvests.

Helping farmers access markets

Smallholders face a number of difficulties in accessing markets – from low productivity to poor post-harvest handling and processing to limited access to quality inputs to inadequate transport networks. FAO is helping farmers access more reliable sources of income by linking them to markets through contract growing and out-growing arrangements. These ensure that farmers receive the inputs and training they need with a guaranteed market for their produce.


More about the country

 - Malawi is regularly hit by natural disasters such as floods and drought – approximately 26 000 people are affected by floods each year. Some 86 percent more
 - More than 170,000 people have had to leave their homes in Malawi after heavy flooding. Some 79 deaths have been confirmed so far, while 153 people more
 - Les agriculteurs du sud du Malawi nécessitent une aide d'urgence en semences et en bétail après que de fortes inondations ont dévasté leurs champs et leurs habitations, more
 - In Malawi many have fled their homes and farmlands in the southern districts of the country after usually heavy rains hit last week, sparking devastating floods. more
 - The Government of Malawi in collaboration with the United Nations and other partners, including Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), has launched a two-year project aimed at building the more
 - In Mvera, Dowa district in Malawi, the farmers of Kaso Producers & Marketing Cooperative Society know very well what FAO and WFP collaboration means, as it more
 - Around 50 representatives from participating countries and partners, including the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP), gathered more
 - Malawi is a small, landlocked African country suffering frequent droughts and floods. These extreme weather events damage infrastructure and housing and occasionally displace significant portions of more
 - Une nouvelle méthode, plus rapide et plus précise, pour mesurer la faim et l'insécurité alimentaire dans le monde va bientôt être testée sur le terrain par more
 - Au cours d'une visite de haut niveau au Malawi, Andris Piebalgs, commissaire européen chargé du développement, et José Graziano da Silva, Directeur général de la FAO, ont more