8 July 2004


Mission Highlights

  • The production of maize, Malawi’s most important staple crop, is estimated to have fallen by 14 percent in 2004 compared to last year, and 17 percent compared to the average of the past five years. A late start and early finish to the rains in the south reduced both planted areas and yields, resulting in national maize production of some 1.705 million tonnes and total cereal production of 1.813 million tonnes including milled rice. The high cost of fertilizers and agricultural credit coupled with relatively low maize prices also contributed to reduced production levels.
  • National production of cassava and sweet potatoes, on the other hand, is estimated to have increased by about 13 percent to 4.2 million tonnes (or 1.132 million tonnes in cereal equivalent), which may help reduce the cereal deficit to some extent, if substituted for maize.
  • Aggregate domestic cereal supply, including roots and tubers in cereal equivalent, for the 2004/05 marketing year (April/March) is estimated at 2.955 million tonnes. National utilization is estimated at 3.363 million tonnes, implying an import requirement of 408 000 tonnes.
  • This import requirement is estimated to be covered by food aid of 56 000 tonnes and the remaining 352 000 tonnes of formal and informal commercial imports by the government and the private sector.
  • It is estimated that a total of 1.34 million people, or about 11 percent of the population will experience a food deficit between June 2004 and the next harvest in April-May 2005. If maize prices increase above the projected prices of MK17 to MK 27 per kilogram, the size of total deficit and the number of people requiring food assistance will increase significantly. Up to 86 percent of those affected are located in the southern part of the country.


A late start to the rains in the south, followed by unsatisfactory rainfall distribution, prompted the Government of Malawi to request FAO and WFP to carry out an in-country assessment of the crop situation and food security prospects for the 2004/05 marketing year (April/March). An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission visited Malawi from 25 April to 15 May 2004. Officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Food Security (MAIFS) accompanied the Mission, while representatives of the Famine Early Warning System (FEWS-NET), SADC, USAID, EU and DFID participated as observers.

The Mission interviewed the staff of MAIFS, the National Statistics Office (NSO), the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA), the Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (ADMARC), the Ministry of Economic Planning and Development (EP&D), UN and other international and bilateral organizations and NGOs. The Mission also collected extensive documentation on recent weather conditions, current crop assessments and forecasts, and reported food shortages prepared by government and non-government agencies, and most importantly, the NSO/MAISF Second-Round Agricultural Production Estimates released at the end of April. This information was cross-checked against information from extension officers, farmers, traders, staff from agricultural trading companies, poultry farmers, and local NGO and donor project staff as well as against remote-sensing data and imagery from early warning systems.

After initial briefing, the Mission split into two teams to cover as many areas as possible in the limited time available. Between them, they visited all of the country's eight Agricultural Development Divisions (ADDs) and all but two of its 27 districts (RDPs).1 The local situation was discussed with MAIFS and other government officials at each ADD headquarter and in each district with a view to assessing the continuing validity of forecasts in the Second-Round Agricultural Production Estimates. The teams also travelled extensively in the field in order to observe and evaluate standing crops; discussions were held with farmers concerning their experiences of the summer cropping season, their plans for the winter season, and their perceptions of levels of food security at present and for the coming twelve months. Markets were visited to observe the availability of agricultural produce and prices of staples; maize prices were also discussed with traders. All major border trading posts were visited to evaluate the nature and extent of cross-border trade between Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and the United Republic of Tanzania. Upon returning to Lilongwe, the Mission briefed the government and donor agencies on preliminary findings.

The Mission found the NSO/MAIFS estimates generally acceptable at ADD and national level, although there were some discrepancies in planted area (e.g. in Salima ADD) and in the yields of some crops between the NSO/MAIFS estimates and the estimates of the RDP/extension staff. This year, field surveys were constrained due to the reduced number of experienced enumerators and their ability to physically measure planted areas on sampled farms.

Planting of major crops was delayed throughout the country this year with rains beginning during the second dekad of December instead of during October/November. The season was characterized by generally inadequate, erratic rainfall, with some areas experiencing two or three dry spells. In many northern and central areas, the February rains were generally adequate, although parts of the west, especially southwest Kasungu, suffered from drier conditions. Rainfall in the south was very poor during December. The situation looked more promising by the end of January, but February brought some prolonged dry spells. In some upland areas the situation improved in late February and early March, but much of the maize in low-lying areas continued to be subject to damaging, dry conditions until tasselling and grain-filling stages. Unusually high rainfall in early April came too late for these crops.

Total maize production for the summer 2003/04 season including the forecast for the winter 2004 season is estimated at 1.705 million tonnes, about 14 percent below last year’s harvest and 17 percent below the average of the previous five years. About 93 percent of all maize is produced by smallholders and the remainder on estates. Winter maize production is becoming increasingly important, and according to farmers’ planting intentions and yield expectations, should produce about 192 000 tonnes or 11 percent of annual maize output.

Aggregate cereal production for 2003/04 including maize, rice (milled), sorghum, millet and wheat is estimated at 1.813 million tonnes, about 14 percent below last year’s average level. Root crops such as cassava, sweet potatoes and Irish potatoes are gaining importance, seen in the estimated 22 percent increase in area planted and about 13 percent increase in total production over the previous year. Total production of cassava and sweet potatoes from the harvestable area (and therefore potentially available for the 2004/05 marketing year) is estimated at 1.132 million tonnes in cereal equivalent. It should be acknowledged, however, that there is a considerable uncertainty about the harvestable area, area that will be actually harvested and even the yields of cassava in Malawi. With the opening stocks of about 10 000 tonnes this gives a total domestic cereal and cereal equivalent supply of 2.955 million tonnes against a total consumption requirement of 3.363 million tonnes. If one commodity can be substituted for another in daily consumption, especially during a cereal-deficit year, then the cereal import requirement for Malawi for 2004/05 can be projected at 408 000 tonnes, about 86 percent in maize. In case the surplus root and tuber crops do not compensate for the maize deficit, then maize import requirements would rise by another 100 000 tonnes. It is therefore important that efforts be made by the government, farmers, donors and NGOs to encourage timely harvesting, processing and drying of cassava for marketing and transportation from cassava-surplus to maize-deficit areas.

Commercial cereal imports estimated at about 352 000 tonnes (with maize at 294 000 tonnes) are expected to cover most of the food deficit over and above the estimated food aid imports. The commercial imports would consist of government imports to achieve the NFRA stated food reserve stock, formal and informal imports by private traders and possible additional government imports for local markets in case private trade does not materialize to the satisfactory level, possibly due to ambiguous policies regarding the role of ADMARC and maize consumer price subsidization. In all, 58 000 tonnes of wheat, generally used for bread-making, is expected to be imported commercially by the private sector.

With an expected maize surplus in northern Mozambique (in neighbouring Zambezia province) and in Zambia, informal cross-border trade is likely to be significant this year, possibly with a net inflow in the neighbourhood of 200 000 tonnes into southern and central Malawi. Given that WFP already has 15 000 tonnes of maize in stock the uncovered food gap for the 2004/05 marketing year, therefore, is anticipated to be about 41 000 tonnes of maize, which would need to be met through food aid from the international donor community.

It is estimated that a total of 1.34 million people, or about 11 percent of the nation population will experience a food deficit amounting to about 56 000 tonnes in maize equivalent between June 2004 and the next harvest in April-May 2005. In the worst affected areas in the southern part of the country, about 40 percent of the population will have a shortfall. The household deficit is due to a combined effect of the reduced availability of food from own production and low purchasing power to meet minimum dietary intake.

The greater part of the relief assistance will be required during the lean period between October 2004 to March 2005. However, in districts with the largest deficits, poor households will require food or cash assistance as early as July-September 2004 period. Between July-September 2004 period an estimated 1 720 tonnes will be required, 12 530 tonnes in October–December 2004 peaking to 41 780 tonnes in the January-March 2005 lean period.

Relief requirements are likely to increase if maize prices rise above the projected price range of MK17.00 and MK27.00 per kilogram. The size of the deficit and the number of people unable to meet food needs are likely to increase substantially. Monitoring of prices for early warning is therefore crucial.


2.1 Macro-economic situation

With its Human Development Index (HDI) rank consistently in the bottom 10 percent and per capita gross domestic product (GDP) stagnant at about US$195 in the past 6 years, Malawi faces great economic challenges to improve the standard of living for its citizens (see Table 1). According to the Economic Report 2003 by the Ministry of Economic Planning and Development, real GDP growth has fluctuated between -4.1 percent in 2001 and 3.6 percent in 1999, averaging a mere 1.2 percent per annum over the 1998–2003 period. This is far below the population growth rate, which is officially estimated at over 3 percent. The agriculture sector has performed better with a simple annual average growth rate of 4.5 percent, but faces wider weather-induced fluctuations in performance. Lack of growth and macro-economic instability have thus been major problems in recent years.

Table 1. Malawi: Key economic indicators, 1998–2003

  1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003p
GDP per capita in US$ 194 195 187 184 208 195
GDP (in Kwacha, MK) growth
rate (%) at 1994 factor cost
2.2 3.6 0.2 -4.1 1.8 3.4
Agricultural GDP growth rate
(%) at 1994 factor cost
10.3 10.1 3.8 -6.2 2.3 3.9
Exchange rate MK/US$ (period
31.1 44.1 59.5 72.2 76.7 91
Trade Deficit in million US$b 47 185 145 106 290 256
p = projected.
a. = As of late April 2004, the exchange rate was 107 MK/US$ with the black market rate being about 6–7 percent
higher than the official rate.
b. = Calculated by dividing Malawi Kwacha by the average exchange rate with the US$.
Source: Ministry of Economic Planning and Development, National Statistical Office, Treasury and Reserve Bank of
Malawi, Economic Reports and Quarterly Statistical Bulletin; also available at www.nso.malawi.net.

For more than twenty years Malawi has faced two central economic challenges: reducing the level of absolute poverty, and cutting the budget deficit. The strategies for poverty alleviation have included liberalization of domestic markets, relaxation of agricultural marketing arrangements and privatization of para-statal companies. Overall, there has been little noticeable diversification of the production base, agriculture being by far the dominant sector.

In December 2000, the International Monetary Fund approved a three-year poverty reduction and growth facility that formalized the objective of poverty reduction and emphasized fiscal policy reform and promotion of private-sector development and investment. In his 2002/03 budget statement to Parliament, the Malawi Minister for Finance said that poverty in Malawi had reached unacceptable levels. He pointed out that the 1998 Integrated Household Survey revealed that 65.3 percent of Malawians – 6.3 million people – were poor, and that 28.7 percent of these were extremely poor. He considered the key causes of poverty to include limited access to land, low education, poor health status, limited off-farm employment and a lack of access to credit.

Consumer price inflation has come down from nearly 45 percent in 1999 to the current level of around 10 percent (Figure 1). Maize prices skyrocketed in 2002 from drought-reduced food production and low food imports. Prices later came down when substantial maize imports were unloaded by the government at subsidized prices through ADMARC distribution.

The depreciating value of the national currency (see Table 1) has naturally acted to raise the cost of imports, including agricultural inputs and grains.

According to the Reserve Bank of Malawi, the country’s total foreign exchange reserves at the end of 2003 stood at US$133 million, down from US$161 million a year before (this latter figure is equivalent to less than three months of imports). The debt service to exports ratio has risen to about 24 percent in 2003, up from 18 percent in 1998. This severely limits the government’s ability to import food and other essential commodities during this marketing year. An improved tobacco harvest in 2004 is expected to boost the country’s exports somewhat.

The HIV/AIDS pandemic continues to be a major social and economic problem for the country. About 15 percent of the adult population is estimated to be infected, but only 3 percent of the population has been tested for AIDS. The agriculture sector and the food security of the HIV/AIDS-affected population have been negatively impacted.

Figure 1. Malawi: Urban Inflation rates, food versus non-food items (percent change, year on year for each month), January 2002–March 2004.

Source: NSO’s Consumer Price Index (Urban) data. Non-food inflation rate calculated from the NSO data.

2.2 Performance of the agricultural sector

About 85 percent of the population in Malawi is dependent on agriculture. This dependence is evidently increasing, as the share of agriculture in national GDP has grown steadily from 25 percent in 1994 to nearly 40 percent in 2003. Agriculture also contributes more than 90 percent of the country’s foreign exchange earnings. Tobacco, tea and sugar – three of the country’s major agricultural products – contributed an average of about 82 percent to Malawi’s total annual export earnings in the eight years prior to 2001. Recently, however, declining international prices have lowered their contribution to about 75 percent in 2003.

The agricultural sector is composed of two sub sectors: small-scale farmers and larger estates. The two sub sectors have been historically distinguished on the basis of legal and institutional rules regulating land tenure, type of crops and marketing arrangements. The smallholder sub sector is based on a customary land-tenure system and is primarily subsistence, providing the bulk of food production. The main food crop is maize, supplemented by rice, sorghum, pulses, cassava and sweet potatoes. Since the mid-1990s, smallholders have been allowed to produce/export industrial crops, and this has generated great response in production, particularly of tobacco. The great challenge arising from this development is to maintain the quality of tobacco produced. Other cash crops include cotton, groundnuts and pulses. The estate sub sector comprises about 14 700 estates occupying some 850 000 ha of leased land. The main crops are tobacco, tea and sugar cane. Approximately 80 percent of the labour force is engaged in the smallholder sub sector and 11 percent on estates.

Agricultural production grew at an annual rate of 2.1 percent from 1980 to 1993, down from a high of 4.4 percent per annum between 1970 and 1980. This was mainly because Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (ADMARC) purchases were drastically reduced in 1986/87, with maize purchases decreasing from 271 000 tonnes in 1985 to 59 500 tonnes in 1987, as result of excessive stocks and government budgetary constraints. Furthermore, guaranteed producer prices were held down to reduce expenditure; maize prices remained constant for three years up to 1997. This led to a steep fall in marketed maize and a resurgence of food shortages after many years of surpluses.

Throughout the 1990s, agricultural production was characterized by marked swings, mainly from drought. Following a drop in maize production in 1996/97, there was a significant recovery in 1998/99 and 1999/00, attributed to an increased use of modern agricultural inputs such as improved seed and fertilizer, especially under the Targeted Input Package (TIP) or the Starter Pack scheme. An increase in cropped area also contributed to increased production. During the poor 2000/01 season, the distribution of inputs was drastically reduced because of very limited donor involvement and reduced credit availability following extensive defaults by farmers in 1999/00 partly caused by very low maize prices. These were followed by disastrous drought years of 2000/01 and 2001/02 and significant recovery in 2002/03.

The high interest rates currently prevailing in Malawi, with bank rates at 40 percent or more, have adversely affected agricultural producers and increased the cost of borrowing to finance agricultural production. Malawi has thus been prevented from realizing full potential for agricultural production.

The role of ADMARC was changed by legislation in December 2003. It will now be expected to operate as a commercial company buying and selling grain in the open market. However, from the discussions with ADMARC’s senior management it was clear that no financial resources to begin the planned purchases of about 100 000 tonnes of maize locally have yet materialized. Moreover ADMARC’s so called “social function” within the national food security strategy is often mentioned but kept very ambiguous. Discussions with important private traders suggest that they are not likely to invest in trading/marketing of grain, especially maize, until there is a clear decision on the government policy regarding ADMARC and subsidization of maize in the domestic market. This ambiguity could lead to serious shortages of grain in the markets and food access later in the year.

2.3 Population

The size of Malawi's population remains a debatable issue, with implications for the assessment of national food security. The 1998 Malawi Population and Housing Census estimated the national population at 9 933 868 and the 1989–1998 inter-census annual growth rate at 1.98 percent. This growth rate was considered abnormally low as a result of the return of the Mozambican refugees out of Malawi during late 1990s. In spite of the acknowledgment of the negative impact of HIV/AIDS on the population growth, the NSO has prepared official population projections up to 2023 with annual growth rates in excess of 3 percent (details are available at the official web site – www.nso.malawi.net). These rates are more in line with the 1977–1987 inter-census period growth rate. Accordingly, the official population estimate for mid-2004 is 11 937 934. All parties – the national Vulnerability Assessment Committee, FEWS-NET and the FAO/WFP Mission – have agreed to use this official figure for the sake of consistency.


Because of time constraints, the CFSAM is always obliged to rely heavily, for its assessment, on preliminary estimates of crop production already carried out by government and other bodies. This year, the assessment in Malawi was complicated by the transfer of responsibility for national crop estimation from the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Food Security (MAIFS) to the National Statistics Office (NSO). The MAIFS, which originally took over the task from the NSO in the early 1980s, carried out crop estimates annually until 2003. In 2003, however, some members of the donor community questioned the reliability of the MAIFS estimates and recommended that the mandate for estimation be handed back to the NSO. The matter was put to Cabinet and the transfer was approved. Despite funding, specifically for crop estimation, of about MK52 million (mostly from the Emergency Drought-Relief Programme (EDRP)), and the recruitment and training of some 360 extra staff for the task, the NSO’s initial first-round estimate was rejected by the National Crop Estimate Committee (consisting of the MAIFS, the Ministry of Economic Planning and Development, the Ministry of Finance and the Reserve Bank of Malawi). On the recommendation of the Committee, the MAIFS then assisted the NSO in revising the estimate, particularly in relation to crop yields, and a modified first-round estimate was published and accepted in March 2004. Further collaboration between the MAIFS and the NSO resulted in the release of initial and final second-round estimates at the end of April and the beginning of May respectively. There are still doubts concerning the reliability of some of these estimates, especially in relation to crop areas, and some ADD staff have expressed reservations about the published second-round figures. In this report, where deemed necessary, second-round figures have been modified in the light of field observations, interviews with farmers, and discussions with MAIFS staff both at headquarters and in the field at ADD and RDP levels.

3.1 Main factors affecting production in 2003/04


The rainy season in Malawi normally starts in the south, with scattered showers beginning in late October or early November, and then progresses northwards over the following month. The pattern is shown in Figure A12. This year the situation was somewhat reversed, with good planting rains falling in much of the north and centre of the country during December. The rains in many northern and central areas then eased in early January but returned satisfactorily by the end of the month. February rains were generally adequate, though parts of the west, especially southwest Kasungu suffered from drier conditions. Although the rains tailed off normally in many parts of the north and centre in late March and early April, other parts received unusually high rainfall at the end of the season, which benefited rice and root crops especially. It should be emphasized, however, that the summer season of 2003/04 in the north and the centre was characterized by greater variation in the geographical distribution of rainfall than usual, with areas quite close to each other experiencing significantly different patterns and total amounts. This patchiness was reflected in crop performance.

In contrast to the north and the centre, rainfall in the south was generally very poor during December. In years when there is a false start to the rains followed by a dry spell, many farmers are obliged to re-plant; this year, however, the early rains in parts of the south were so consistently poor that few farmers planted before January. The situation began to look more promising by the end of January, but February brought some prolonged dry spells. In some upland areas the situation improved in late February and early March but much of the maize in lower-lying areas continued to be subject to damaging, dry conditions up to the time of tassel ling and grain-filling. Unusually high rainfall in early April came too late for those crops that had already suffered setbacks. As in the north, much of the south also experienced patchy geographical rainfall distribution. For instance, it was reported that 500 hectares of maize were lost to flooding in Phalombe RDP (Blantyre ADD), while nearby areas within the same RDP were damaged by dry conditions.

Area planted

The area under summer maize in 2003/04 was marginally smaller than that of the previous year, mainly as a result of the poor rainfall in parts of the south such as Shire Valley and Machinga. Although the area under local varieties and hybrids has shrunk with respect to last year, the area under composites has shown an increase of approximately 20 percent. Low rainfall and poor soil-moisture conditions in much of the south and in parts of the centre and north are expected to have a negative effect on the area under winter production in the dambos, although prospects have improved somewhat for those areas that received late rains at the end of April. However, Shire Valley, where winter production on residual moisture from receding floods is especially important, is likely to see a significant reduction in cropped area. A further constraint to winter cropping – though one which may be less dramatic than might have been expected prior to the recent MAIFS/DFID study (see below under ‘Agricultural Inputs’) – is the discontinuation of the winter Targeted Input Programme (TIP). Perhaps surprisingly, many farmers in the centre and the north plan to expand their area of winter production this year, implying that there was under-utilized wetland cropping capacity last year. Compared with last year, the reduction in total maize area for both winter and summer is expected to be only as little as 2 percent.

The area under rice decreased by almost 10 percent compared with last year. The important producing ADDs of Machinga and Salima, and to a lesser extent Blantyre, have registered significant reductions largely because of the late arrival of the rains.

The area under cassava has increased significantly this year, but the extent of this increase – and especially the increase in area to be harvested by March 2005 – is unclear because planting can take place at different times during the year, and both bitter and sweet varieties are grown in Malawi. Sweet varieties are usually harvested within twelve months of planting, whereas bitter varieties may remain in the ground for two years or more. In its second-round estimate, the NSO put the increase in area at about 40 percent compared with last year. Not only were large amounts of planting material distributed in 2003 in most ADDs by FAO and several other organizations, but there has also been spontaneous expansion in the area planted in those parts of the country where it is not a staple: there is an increasing awareness that the crop can be used as a cash crop (as sun-dried chips) when food is not scarce, or as a survival crop in a lean year. However, most of those consulted in both the MAIFS and the field considered the estimate of a 40-percent increase in area to be excessive. Some wondered whether sufficient account had been taken of the area harvested during 2003. The mission eventually concluded that a 20-percent expansion of area of cassava harvestable by March 2005 was reasonably realistic, bringing the total to 134 000 hectares.

The area of harvestable sweet potato, which, because of its shorter maturation period is easier to estimate than cassava, has also increased considerably this year, again largely as a result of various local distribution programmes. Irish potato, which is a valuable cash crop for highland producers, has registered an increase in area of about 10 percent.

Crop yields

Average maize yields, at 1.1 t/ha, are lower by about 15 percent this year compared with last year, mostly as a result of the poorer rainfall in the south of the country. Yields of cassava, a drought-tolerant crop, are similar to last year’s at just under 16 t/ha (fresh weight). Irish potato, being a crop of the cooler higher altitudes less affected by moisture stress, also gave similar yields to last year at about 13 t/ha. Sweet potato yields have fallen from 13 to just over 10 t/ha, mostly as a result of moisture stress at the time of root bulking. Groundnut yields, at just under 800 kg/ha, are slightly lower than last year.

Agricultural inputs

In November 2003, the Targeted Input Programme (TIP), financed by the EU and DFID, distributed packs of maize seed and fertilizer to about 1.7 million farmers for use in the summer cropping season. Each pack contained 2 kg of seed, 5 kg of basal fertilizer and 5 kg of top-dressing. In recent years there was also a winter TIP that included bean seed as well and was intended for wetland production during the period May–October. This year it has been decided to discontinue the winter TIP, following a study commissioned by the MAIFS and DFID which concluded that the returns from the investment in the programme were significantly less than those from the summer TIP. The study, conducted in the second half of 2003, found that more than one quarter of the winter TIP packs did not reach their target farmers, and of those that did, a large proportion were (often quite rationally) held over by recipient farmers for main-season production.

Although fertilizers were commercially available this year in most producing areas, their cost combined with the low price of maize has acted as a strong disincentive to their use on food crops. With the removal of subsidies in recent years, fertilizer prices in Malawi now reflect world market prices, whereas the market for maize, which is continually distorted by government interventions through ADMARC and by food aid, provides farmers with no incentive to produce a marketable surplus. The average monthly price of a 50-kg bag of urea during the 2003/04 cropping season at Mzimba (Mzuzu ADD) and Muloza (Blantyre ADD) across the range of MK1 420 to MK2 200 indicating an increase of over 50 percent within 4 months from June to October, 20033. Table A1 shows national fertilizer consumption over the past six years. Most fertilizer in Malawi is used on cash and commercial crops.

The distribution of subsidized treadle pumps, for which farmers make a single payment of MK7 000 per pump or pay MK9 000 over a three-year period, continued this year in most ADDs. However, the rate of installation and use is often considerably lower than that of distribution, for various reasons. Purchasers do not always receive adequate instruction in pump operation and field layout, water sources are frequently inadequate, and the fact that the price is subsidized reduces the imperative to maximize the use of the purchase.

Weeds, pests and diseases

Inadequate weeding of the maize crop is common in many parts of Malawi. This is often said to be the unavoidable result of labour constraints, but the perception of maize as a crop of low commercial value must also play a part in the decision to minimize labour inputs. This year the dry spell in many parts of the country in February prompted some growers not to carry out a second weeding in the belief that weed growth would not be serious.

Crop pests and diseases were generally at a low level throughout the summer season. Some minor and localized outbreaks of armyworm were reported in December, but all were satisfactorily controlled. Producers of soybean have reported the incidence of soybean looper. Mosaic persists in much of the cassava crop despite the distribution of substantial amounts of virus-free planting material during 2003. Other perennial diseases which were reported at low levels this year include bacterial wilt and anthracnose on potatoes in Dedza, late blight on tomatoes, and grey leaf spot and streak on maize.

Agricultural credit

The use of formal agricultural credit for food-crop production is extremely low in Malawi, for several reasons. Interest rates at the Malawi Rural Finance Company run at a prohibitive 50 percent per annum, but even if a small producer were prepared to contemplate such high rates it would be difficult for him to get loan approval. The artificially low price of maize also dissuades farmers from seeking expensive credit for its production. There is, however, a significant amount of informal lending within communities, with repayment usually in kind. In the area of livestock, there are some schemes promoting the ownership of small ruminants; most operate as revolving funds, providing, for instance, in-kid goats to households who later return the dams to the fund for future use by others and keep the progeny to build up their own stock.

3.2 Food crop production estimate

Food crop production estimates for Malawi’s eight ADDs and for the country as a whole are presented in Tables 2, 3 and A2–A4. Tables 2 and A2 show maize production, Table A3 total cereal production, Table 3 the production of roots and tubers and Table A4 total food crop production. This year’s total maize production estimate in the context of production over the previous 20 years; production is estimated to be lower than last year but above that of 2001/02. Although this year’s production will be above the 20-year average it will be below the average of the past five years. It should be noted, however, that the past five years include the two excellent harvests of 1998/99 and 1999/2000. Malawi’s national food crop production for 2003/04 is estimated as follows:

Table 2. Malawi: Maize production, 2003/04

 ADD  Unit  Total
Summer maize Winter maize
Smallholder Estate Smallholder
Karonga Area '000 ha 42 38 0.1 4.1
  Yield t/ha 1.1 1.0 2.0 1.3
  Production '000 t 44 39 0.2 5.2
Mzuzu Area '000 ha 143 133 2.9 6.5
  Yield t/ha 0.9 0.9 1.4 1.3
  Production '000 t 133 120 4.1 8.5
Kasungu Area '000 ha 291 222 46 23
  Yield t/ha 1.4 1.2 2.0 2.3
  Production '000 t 411 267 91 53
Salima Area '000 ha 79 70 1.3 7.5
  Yield t/ha 1.4 1.4 1.9 1.6
  Production '000 t 110 95 2.5 12
Lilongwe Area '000 ha 337 307 2.2 28
  Yield t/ha 1.2 1.1 1.9 1.9
  Production '000 t 396 338 4.2 54
Machinga Area '000 ha 290 273 5.4 12
  Yield t/ha 1.0 1.0 1.6 1.8
  Production '000 t 300 270 8.5 22
Blantyre Area '000 ha 258 250 0.7 6.8
  Yield t/ha 1.0 0.9 4.0 1.8
  Production '000 t 247 232 2.8 13
Shire Valley Area '000 ha 93 75 0.0 18
  Yield t/ha 0.7 0.5 - 1.4
  Production '000 t 64 39 0.0 25
Malawi Area '000 ha 1 533 1 368 59 106
  Yield t/ha 1.1 1.0 1.9 1.8
  Production '000 t 1 705 1 399 113 192
Source: NSO/MAIFS second-round crop estimates (with modifications by CFSAM where deemed necessary)
Note: Calculations based on unrounded data.

Table 3. Malawi: Root and tuber production, 2003/04

ADD Unit Total roots and tubers Cassava Sweet potato Irish potato
Karonga Area '000 ha 18 15 3.6 0.02
  Yield t/ha 16 17 12 8.5
  Production '000 t 291 246 45 0.2
Mzuzu Area '000 ha 53 37 15 1.5
  Yield t/ha 19 22 14 10
  Production '000 t 1 027 805 207 15
Kasungu Area '000 ha 48 10 33 4.2
  Yield t/ha 11 17 8.0 15
  Production '000 t 503 176 263 63
Salima Area '000 ha 23 19 4.1 0.01
  Yield t/ha 16 17 11 9.1
  Production '000 t 363 319 44 0.1
Lilongwe Area '000 ha 47 8.8 19 19
  Yield t/ha 12 13 13 11
  Production '000 t 578 117 245 216
Machinga Area '000 ha 42 20 23 0.2
  Yield t/ha 11 12 11 10
  Production '000 t 487 236 249 1.7
Blantyre Area '000 ha 78 24 46 8.2
  Yield t/ha 11 10 10 16
  Production '000 t 868 253 482 134
Shire Valley Area '000 ha 4.3 0.7 3.6 0.0
  Yield t/ha 11 13 11 -
  Production '000 t 48 9.4 39 0.0
Malawi Area '000 ha 315 134 147 33
  Yield t/ha 13 16 11 13
  Production '000 t 4 165 2 161 1 573 431
Source: NSO/MAIFS second-round crop estimates (with modifications by CFSAM where deemed necessary).
Note: Calculations based on unrounded data.

3.3 Other crops

The area under soybean is marginally smaller this year than last, but yields are generally satisfactory, especially in Kasungu, and farm-gate prices were rising at the beginning of May. There is good scope for expansion in soybean production in Malawi, with the growth of the poultry and soy-based food-processing industries. Production this year is expected to be similar to that of last year, about 40 000 tonnes.

Cotton is showing a substantial increase this year with an estimated production of about 55 000 tonnes of seed cotton, compared with last year’s 40 000 tonnes. The increase is mainly the result of an expansion in area of more than 50 percent. Growers have been encouraged by the Cotton Development Association and support from commercial companies in the form of input packages including improved seed and phytosanitary materials. The relatively dry conditions in the main cotton-growing areas have depressed yields, but not dramatically. Production in Shire Valley, the country’s main producer, is expected to be more than 24 000 tonnes, up 38 percent from last year’s 17 600 tonnes.

Tobacco production has benefited this year from the removal of the Intermediate Buyer scheme. The grower can now sell directly to the tobacco company rather than through a licensed middleman, thus maximizing his profit. As a result, national production has increased. Yields in the drought-affected areas were rather lower than last year, but yield and quality in parts of the north, particularly Mzuzu ADD, were better than last year.

3.4 Livestock and pasture

Despite various programmes to encourage smallholder ownership of livestock, numbers in most parts of the country appear to be declining. The threat of theft and the risk of damage to the owner’s and others’ crops are often cited as reasons for not keeping livestock. There has been an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Chitipa, apparently as a result of cattle movement from Zambia. So far, it appears to have been contained. In Phalombe swine fever was reported, but the disease is said to have been restricted to the RDP. East Coast Fever (ECF) is not uncommon and has been troublesome in Dedza. Government-supported dipping of cattle for the control of ECF used to be carried out regularly but was discontinued in 1994. There is a growing market for commercially produced poultry in Malawi, with current domestic output at more than 10 000 birds per day. At present hatching eggs are imported by the industry from Zimbabwe but this supply is diminishing and Malawian producers expect to have their own hatchery soon to produce their own. Smallholder poultry is subject to losses from Newcastle disease.



Last year, the north and central parts of Karonga ADD experienced dry conditions. This year, in contrast, they received their first planting rains from early to mid-December, and rainfall distribution was generally satisfactory for the rest of the season. The south, though, which is the main maize-producing part of the ADD, received less favourable rainfall this year. Dry spells led to a drop in both area and yield of maize compared with last year. However, this was compensated in part by increased production of rice in the north and centre resulting from a slight expansion of area and an increase in paddy yield from 1.6 to 1.8 t/ha. Rice yields were helped by the relatively late continuation of the rains, and milled rice prices at the beginning of May 2004 were lower than they had been at the same time in 2003. Despite the ADD’s reduced production of maize this year and the continuing ban on maize exports from the country, there has been a significant flow of maize out of Karonga into the United Republic of Tanzania following ADMARC’s pricing of a 50-kg bag at MK500. Largely in response to last year’s generally drier conditions in the north and centre of the ADD, there has been considerable expansion in the area under cassava.


Although Mzuzu ADD’s cumulative rainfall was lower this year than last, this year’s distribution was generally better. This was reflected in better maize yields and an overall increase in maize production despite a slight reduction in area. Both rice and groundnut yields have also shown an increase on last year, although some rice growers were confronted with a dry spell at the time of transplanting. Mzuzu ADD is the country’s largest producer of cassava, and bitter varieties form the principal staple in Nkhata Bay RDP. This year the area under cassava increased. Mzuzu is also an important tobacco producer; this year, with better rainfall distribution, yield and quality are reported to be higher than last year.


Much of Kasungu ADD, especially the southwest around Mchinji, was dry from the end of February to mid-March which depressed crop yields. Summer smallholder maize covered a slightly larger area than last year, but yields were lower. This year, the ADD’s total winter cropping area is expected to contract slightly in response to the lower cumulative rainfall, although local variation will be considerable and some parts will show increases. There has been significant growth in the area under cassava this year with the MAIFS delivering some 35 tonnes of planting material to each of the RDPs. The area under sweet potato has also shown a dramatic increase, but production was limited by relatively low yields. Kasungu is one of the most important groundnut-producing ADDs; this year, production increased in line with increased area. It is also the country’s main tobacco producer, and although yields this year were satisfactory, leaf quality suffered in several areas as a result of periodic moisture stress. Given the wide range of prices offered to producers – from MK50 for high quality down to MK15 for low quality – this could have a serious impact on the food security of affected households.


Salima’s Nkhotakota RDP is one of the country’s most important cassava-producing areas, second only to Nkhata Bay in Mzuzu ADD. Cassava is the principal staple in Nkhotakota, and varieties grown are almost exclusively bitter. Although the NSO/MSAIF second-round figures show a slight reduction in the area under cassava this year compared to last, this is generally disputed by ADD agricultural staff who consider that the area has actually increased during 2003/04. Maize production is similar to that of last year, but rice showed a reduction in area in response to drier conditions.


The arrival of the rains and planting time were normal in most of Lilongwe ADD, but some areas experienced dry conditions in January. Slight reductions in planted area and yield of maize have led to a drop of about 11 percent in production compared to last year. With the relatively late continuation of the rains into April, winter production in many parts of the ADD is expected to be similar to that of last year. Lilongwe is the country’s main Irish potato-producing ADD, with most production coming from the Dedza Hills area. This year saw slight reductions in both area and yield of the crop, with production of 216 000 tonnes compared with last year’s 251 000 tonnes.


The rains arrived relatively late in most of Machinga and distribution was often erratic thereafter. Reductions in both area and yield resulted in a fall in maize production of 22 percent compared to last year. Because of the poor rainfall and low residual soil moisture, the area under winter cropping is expected to significantly decrease this year. Machinga is Malawi’s main rice-producing ADD. This year, poor rainfall has led to a reduction of almost 20 percent in the area under rice and a drop in yield from 1.6 to 1.0 t/ha. The result is that production has been almost halved from 33 000 to 17 000 tonnes.


Because of its generally higher altitude than Machinga and Shire Valley, much of Blantyre ADD was less affected by the poor rainfall associated this year with the south of Malawi. This has allowed the area under potatoes to expand from 4 360 ha last year to more than 8 000 hectares this year. However, maize yields were significantly lower than last year’s at 1.0 t/ha, and production has fallen by 20 percent.

Shire Valley

The late arrival, irregular distribution and early cessation of the rains led to poor food crop production in Shire Valley this year. Maize area and yield were both down significantly on last year with the result that production was cut by almost half. The ADD usually relies heavily on winter crop production, but all the indications this year are that the area will be substantially reduced because flood waters on the Shire River have been low and there is a shortage of residual soil moisture elsewhere. Shire Valley is Malawi’s principal cotton-growing ADD, and this year the area under cotton has increased in response to support by commercial companies who provided improved seed and crop-protection chemicals. Cotton yields are similar to those of last year at just under 1 tonne of seed cotton per hectare, but production, at more than 24 000 tonnes, will be up by 38 percent.


5.1 Market conditions

Malawi has a relatively free market for maize and other staple foods, with prices freely determined, but during periods of scarcity the government has tended to maintain some control on consumer prices through ADMARC’s retail sales of the government-owned strategic grain reserve. Maize is traded formally and informally through the porous borders with Mozambique, Zambia and the United Republic of Tanzania depending on relative prices in these countries.

At the start of the 2003–04 marketing year, on 1 April 2003, the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) held 251 000 tonnes of maize and the Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (ADMARC) held 9 000 tonnes. The government built these stocks mainly through commercial imports of 235 000 tonnes of maize in the previous year to deal with the food crisis.

The unprecedented level of carryover stocks on 1 April 2003 was the result of low sales of the NFRA maize in the ADMARC markets. The landed price of the maize imported by the NFRA in the 2002/03 marketing year was MK23 per kg (roughly US$290 per tonne) and it was offered for sale to ADMARC at MK14/kg and to the public at MK17/kg, implying a subsidy of around US$80–$100 per tonne, according to variations in the exchange rate. Despite this subsidized price, by the end of March 2003 only 39 000 tonnes of maize had been sold by ADMARC, the main reason being the apparently substantial amounts of informal cross-border maize from Mozambique and the United Republic of Tanzania at lower prices of MK10–12/kg in border areas. Reportedly during 2003/04 marketing year NFRA sold some of its stock to private traders who exported it out of Malawi. ADMARC also lowered its price to MK10/kg and sold most of its maize stocks from January to March 2004. As a result, prices in all three selected markets shown in Figure 2 were lower during 2003/04 than in the previous two years.

Currently, NFRA stocks of mere 7 000 tonnes of maize have reached the lowest level in several years and ADMARC has exhausted all of its stocks. This fact combined with the lower-than-normal prospect for the current harvest has slowed the usual harvest-time price decline in most markets in the country. In some cases prices are beginning to rise, especially in the food-deficit south. Given the higher prices of maize on the Malawi side relative to the Mozambique side (for example, the price at Mulanje border post was observed to be MK9.5/kg, whereas on the Mozambique side it was about MK8/kg), a substantial amount of maize is already coming across the border, stabilizing prices somewhat. The prevailing market prices during March/early May generally ranged from MK10–18/kg in the southern region. Farmers in Malawi lack market power and typically receive about one-half of the retail market price. The absence of major buyers in the market is expected to result in farm-gate prices that are lower than the cost of production. Means to boost farmers’ market power through marketing cooperatives/associations and more efficient private trading may need to be explored.

Figure 2. Retail prices of maize in selected markets, April 2003–May 2004

Source: Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Food Security/FEWS-NET and CFSAM. April and
May prices were collected by the Mission.

5.2 Food supply/demand in marketing year 2004/05

The 2004/05 marketing year (April–March) projected supply/demand balance for cereals is summarized in Table 4 and is based on the following parameters and assumptions:

Table 4. Malawi: Cereal balance sheet for the period 1 April 2004–31 March 2005 (‘000 tonnes)

  Maize Rice
Wheat Cassava
in cereal
in cereal
Total in
Domestic availability (1) 1 712 44 63 4 692 440 2 955
Opening stocks 7 1   2     10
Production 1 705 43 63 2 692 440 2 945
Total utilization (2) 2 062 44 63 62 692 440 3 363
Food use 1 791 36 62 60 382 287 2 617
Feed and industrial uses 20           20
Seed 38 2 19 0     60
Post-harvest losses 256 1 6 0 207 132 603
Closing stocks 60 1   2     63
Cross commodity substitution -103 4 -24   102 22 0
Import requirements (2 - 1) 350 0 0 58 0 0 408
Estimated commercial imports (Government plus private - formal and informal) 294     58     352
Food aid 4/ 56           56
Of which food aid on hand 15           15
Uncovered deficit 41 0 0 0 0 0 41
1/ Paddy rice converted to milled rice at a milling rate of 65 percent.
2/ Cassava cereal equivalent of 32 percent. Production based on the area harvestable within the 12 months of this marketing year.
3/ Sweet potato cereal equivalent of 28 percent.
4/ Food aid recommendation based on the VAC/WFP analysis.
Note: Calculations computed from unrounded data.

6. Emergency Food Requirements

6.1 Food Security Background

The main underlying cause of food insecurity in Malawi is chronic poverty, with two thirds of the population living below the poverty line. More than 86 percent of the poor live in rural areas. The densely populated southern areas have the largest percentage of people below the poverty line. The food security situation is further aggravated by the over reliance on a single crop, maize. The high prevalence of HIV/AIDS has adversely impacted on food security through the loss of productivity and coping mechanisms and has contributed to an increase in chronic malnutrition in recent years.

Recent years have seen an unusual level of instability in basic food supplies in Malawi at household level due to access problems. Adverse climatic conditions in 2000/01 and 2001/02 growing seasons compounded by problems with the management of the strategic grain reserve resulted in one of the worst food security crises the country has experienced since independence. During the 2002/03 marketing year around 30 percent of the population needed emergency assistance to meet their minimum food requirements. During the 2003/4 agricultural season, national food production increased following a normal rainy season. However, problems of access to food continued.

6.2 Vulnerability and coping mechanisms

Sources of livelihoods and livelihoods patterns4

Malawi is primarily rural, with the majority of the population relying on agriculture for their livelihoods. Most of the agricultural production, however, is concentrated in the hands of the better-off household. These households cultivate relatively large areas of land, own cattle and have access to credit and therefore are able to increase production. Poorer households have two major sources of food; own production and casual labour in exchange of either food or cash. Hence, crop and market failures can have serious negative effects, especially for households with few assets to rely on. A combination of the two can be potentially catastrophic.

The Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (MVAC) has analysed the livelihoods patterns in Malawi by livelihood zones. These zones are categorised by different commonalities in livelihood opportunities. The main differences between the zones are in terms of the types of food crops grown, the overall level of production, and economic activities being undertaken (see Figure A2). Generally, the per capita production is lower and dependence on purchase/exchange greater in the south than in the centre and the north. In cassava growing livelihood zones, such as Nkhata Bay, the poor achieve a higher degree of self-sufficiency from own production. This is linked to cassava’s relatively low requirement for both labour and inputs and maize crop failure and maize price instability do not affect the wealth groups.

The income sources for all zones are sale of crops (tobacco, cotton, cassava and other food crops), casual labour (ganyu), and small-scale business (production and sale of firewood, charcoal, mats, baskets, etc.). Sale of livestock is also a source of income for some households, but most households will not have many livestock to part with, and it cannot form a steady income. Remittances do not seem to be a major source of income. The market for ganyu is mainly internal within the livelihood zones, although some people temporary migrate to other livelihood zones and across the border to countries like Zambia and Mozambique. The majority of poorer households do not have enough own production to last 12 months even in a good production year, and therefore have to rely on other sources of income to purchase food.

Coping strategies

As noted in previous sections of this report, the harvest during this year is poorer than in the previous year. The major coping mechanisms for poor farmers with a shortfall food are likely to include the following:

Ganyu will continue to be main source of income and food for most poor households. Casual labour is normally at its peak during agricultural activities particularly during land clearing, ridging, and weeding. However, due to erratic rainfall there was a reduction in the demand for labour during agricultural season which resulted in a loss of income for poorer household. Furthermore, with the reduction in maize production this year will result in a reduction of the payment rate for casual labour in either food or cash in the affected areas. Ngayu is expected to be scarce due to increased demand for casual labour and households will have to work more hours than normally expected to earn the same amount of cash.

Work in tea estates: In Mulanje and Thyolo, the poor work in tea estates picking tea for MK65.00 per day for about 44 kg. Previously the rate was MK37.50 per day. The peak period normally starts in December and ends in May but this year, due to the delays in the onset of rains, erratic rains, and dry spells, labour was only needed in January, one month late than normally expected.

Sale of cash crops is a regular source of income for many households, including poor households. The erratic weather conditions have also affected cash crops. For cash crops like tobacco, the quality of the produce is as important as the quantity. It is therefore difficult to predict the return farmers will get for these crops. But in general, the opportunities for poor farmers to increase their incomes by selling cash crops are likely to be smaller this year compared to last.

Sale of livestock such as chickens, goats, and cattle is another important source of income, especially when food shortages reach critical stages. But during these periods prices of livestock fall sharply as more households resort to these sales to obtain cash to purchase staple foods. Cattle are mostly owned by the well-off households and are rarely sold.

Many farmers are involved in small-scale businesses, like selling of firewood and charcoal, and selling of simple products like mats and baskets. These are normal activities in any year, and there seems to be little scope for a substantial expansion of these as an intermediate coping mechanism.

Fishing is an important source of both food and income for many along the lakeshore of Lake Malawi and also along the Shire River. There seems to be some room for expansion of this activity, but it relates to a limited number of people in proximity to the lake and river.

There has been an expansion of cassava area in recent years. This switch from maize to the more drought-resistant crop will provide a more secure source of food for some households. However, this only applies to a small proportion of households, and is not a trend widely seen in the most severely affected southern districts.

Since harvesting was taking place during mission’s field visits, few severe coping strategies were observed. These might become more prominent when households run out of food, assets are depleted and alternative income sources are more limited. The only severe coping strategy noted, was the picking and eating of water lilies in the southern region along the Shire river. This food type is not very nutritious and not much liked in the region. In addition farmers were saying that due to crocodiles in the river this was dangerous work.

6.3 Health and nutritional status

Nutritional Status

Three nutrition surveys were conducted (August/September 2002, November/December 2002 and April/May 2003.) by various organizations during the emergency period of 2002/03. The national nutrition surveys conducted in April-May 2003 showed global acute malnutrition (GAM) rate ranging from 1.4 to 6.6 percent. These rates are relatively low and within the normal rates of acute malnutrition rate in developing countries5. Although there are some slight increases in acute malnutrition rates in a few districts, some districts also showed a decrease. Malawi had a reasonable harvest last year and therefore no large increase in acute malnutrition could be expected.

The major nutrition problem in Malawi is chronic malnutrition. Consistent with other findings, the April/May 2003 nutrition reported high levels of chronic malnutrition. Four out five districts surveyed in 2003 had child chronic malnutrition exceeding 50 percent, about 40 percent of chronically malnourished severely affected.


Malaria is the most common cause of sickness for children below 30 months. This is followed by diarrhoea and respiratory tract infections. High levels of morbidity are reported from all survey areas.


The estimated HIV/AIDS prevalence in adults (15 to 49 years) in Malawi in 2003 was 14.4 percent, with a range from 12-17 percent6. This level of HIV infection in the adult population has remained constant for the last seven years. This means that there are currently about 760 000 adults infected with HIV, 58 percent of those infected are women. The new 2003 prevalence estimates indicate that HIV infection among adults in urban areas is almost twice as high as in rural areas, and about twice as high in the South as in the North and Central regions.

6.4 Assessment of population in need and of emergency food aid requirements for 2004/05

Assessment Methodology

The emergency foods needs estimates in this report are based on findings of the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (VAC) and on additional data gathered and on observations made by the CFSAM during the field visits to 26 out of 28 districts in the country. Several members of the Malawi VAC also participated in the CFSAM field visits.

The methodology used by the Malawi VAC is the livelihood-based approach which takes into accounts not only food availability but also access issues. 7 The basic principle is that a failure of food crop production (due to drought for example) does not automatically lead to food shortage and famine. Likewise, food may be available, but many people may still go hungry if they do not have the means to access it (e.g. food prices are high and household incomes low).

There are four steps in a household or food economy analysis. The first two are concerned with dividing the population into groups of households that share similar characteristics in terms of their access to food and income. The third step involves developing a baseline picture of food access, income and expenditure for each wealth group in a “normal” or typical non-crisis year. The fourth and final step (outcome analysis) is to combine information on baseline access with that on hazard and response for a particular year in order to generate projections of future access to food and income so that decisions can be taken about the most appropriate types of intervention (including food aid) to mitigate the effect of the hazard.

The baseline work on the first three steps was undertaken in 2003. Malawi was divided in 17 Livelihood Zones (see Figure A2) and detailed baseline profiles were prepared for 11 of them. The assessment of the food security outlook (outcome analysis) for the 2003/04 marketing year prepared by the VAC in August 2003 was based on the livelihood approach. It concluded that 7 of the 11 livelihood zones with baseline covered would experience a food deficit while 4 zones would not have a deficit under the scenario of sharp increase of maize market prices.

A similar approach has been used this year by the VAC for deriving the estimation of populations in need and of emergency food aid requirements for the 2004/05 marketing year. Preliminary estimates are presented below. More details of these analyses will be available in the Malawi VAC Food Security Assessment Report for 2004/05.

Limitations and constraints of the assessment

The VAC assessment for 2004/05 covered eight food insecure livelihood zones out of the 11 livelihood zones with baseline information. The three zones not covered do not have a deficit based on the second round crop estimates for 2003/04 season. The VAC covered most districts of southern Malawi and those districts in the centre and north, which have suffered major crop shortfalls this year. As such, the assessment coverage can be considered adequate for initial planning of interventions, as it covers all major areas where populations have suffered food deficits. The Malawi VAC expects to prepare the profiles for the remaining six livelihood zones in July of this year. Additionally the food security situation in areas of concern not covered in the VAC assessment will be reviewed.

The current assessment is based on a number of assumptions. These are listed in the section below. Changes in market prices and other developments are likely to affect these assumptions and therefore monitoring will be necessary throughout the marketing year. Regular updates of the present analysis will be critical for the implementation of humanitarian programmes.

Estimates of population affected and food aid requirements

As indicated earlier, the areas worst affected by crop shortfalls this year are concentrated in the densely populated southern portion of the country. The VAC assessment indicates that 90 percent of the food deficits are in southern districts of the country as shown in the table below. In total, 50 Extension Planning Areas (EPA) are affected (see Table 5 and Figure 3).

Table 5: Drought Affected Livelihood Zones, Districts and EPAs

Affected Livelihood Zones Affected Areas
Districts Extension Planning Areas (EPAs)
Southern Lakeshore Salima, part of Mangochi Chipoka, Mbwadzulu, Nansenga
Shire Highlands Part of Chiradzulu, Blantyre, Mangochi, Zomba, Thyolo Thumbwe,Ntonda, Maiwa, part of Chingale, Kunthembwe, Momwezi, Matapwata, Ntulawi
Middle Shire Valley Part of Mwanza, Blantyre, Balaka, Zomba Lisungwi, Mwanza, Lirangwe, Phalula, Utale, Bazale, part of Chingale, Chipande
Phalombe Plain/Lake Chilwa Phalombe, Machinga, Kasongo, Mpinda,Tamani, Chikweo, Nampeya
Thyolo/Mulanje Tea Estates Mulanje,Thyolo Msikawanjala, Mulanje Boma, Khonjeni, Thekerani
Lower Shire Valley Chikwawa, Nsanje Nyahilenda, Mpatsa, Magoti, Kalambo, Livunzu, Makanga, Mbewe, Mitole, Zunde, Mikalango, Dolo
Central Karonga Karonga Lupembe
Kasungu/Lilongwe Plain Lilongwe, Dedza, Dowa, Kasungu Malingunde, Linthipe, Mpingu, Kapuka, Bowe, Mponela, Mkanda, Kaluluma, Chipuka
Source: Preliminary results from the first VAC assessment for 2004/05

Figure 3.

click for big map

Note: The population figures indicated are those which fall
in the zones with livelihood baseline information and for
affected areas which were sampled during the assessment
period. The total population figure in the table excludes

A total of 1.34 million people, or about 11 percent of the nation population nationally will experience a food deficit amounting to about 56 000 MT in maize equivalent between June 2004 and the next harvest in April-May 2005 (Table A5). In the affected areas, however, 40 percent of the population will have a shortfall. The deficit reflects the combined effect of the reduced availability of food from own production and limited purchasing power to meet their minimum nutritional requirement. The affected population groups belong to the poor or very poor income group, with 86 percent of those affected located in the southern part of the country.

The current estimate of the food deficit is based on the following assumptions:

The bulk of emergency food needs will be required in the lean period from October 2004 to March 2005. However, in some districts where the deficits are largest in relation to yearly consumption needs, food or cash assistance will be required by poor households already in the July-September 2004 period (see Table 6 and A5).

The main VAC analysis expresses the deficit in food entitlements for each EPA as a percentage change from the food requirement for each individual income group in the baseline. Because of this, the deficit can be expressed in kilocalorie or in kilograms of maize equivalent, if the assumption is that the deficit will be met by food aid or in terms of cash if the deficit will be met through cash assistance. The total cash requirement to replace the missing food entitlements is estimated at US$10 million.

In view of the expected substantial national food deficit and the low levels of food reserves expected in the 2004/05 marketing season, the bulk of the food required to meet the deficit of vulnerable households, contrary to 2003/04, may have to be imported in 2004/05. Informal trade could play a significant role in mobilizing available supplies in neighbouring countries, especially Mozambique where a substantial surplus maize production is reported to exist, provided that food deficit households have sufficient income from extra ganyu opportunities or special income supporting cash for work activities to stimulate the flow of imports.

Table 6: Number of People in Need of Assistance and Cereal Needs by period for 2004/5

Phased Need
Populations Number in
Cereal Needs (Tonnes)
July-September 2004 October-December 2004 January-March 2005 238 400 704 700 1 343 600 1 720 12 530 41 780
Total July 2004- March 2005 1 343 600 56 030

6.5 Possible strategies for food assistance

Current WFP Activities

Until mid-2003, the majority of WFP’s operations in Malawi covered emergency general food distribution aimed at reducing the negative effects on populations’ food intake following the poor harvest of 2002. As a result of a more favourable situation after the good 2003 crops, WFP programmes have shifted to long-term food security interventions addressing chronic vulnerability and access problems as part of the national safety net as recommended in the Malawi Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper. Currently, WFP food aid programmes focus on food-for-work/training, nutrition support to malnourished children, and pregnant and lactating mothers, school feeding, support to households supporting chronically ill members or orphans because of HIV AIDS and provision of food rations to refugees.

The programme’s focus is on working with communities to identify and rebuild productive assets that had been depleted over previous years’ food crises, remunerating workers on these infrastructure projects with food. So far, about 43 090 households have participated in these activities, reaching out about 237 000 beneficiaries.

Particularly vulnerable groups (pregnant and lactating mothers, infants) are supported through the nutrition programme, which combine supplementary and therapeutic feeding in National Rehabilitation Units, Health Centres and Hospitals. The programme supports about 30 000 beneficiaries per month with fortified food rations at 250 distribution points throughout the country.

At the worst point in 2002, about half of the country’s children dropped out of school and the Ministry of Education warned that rates could reach 75 percent in 2003 if households faced similar food shortages for a second year. Recognizing the need to maintain school enrolment levels, WFP has trebled the size of its school feeding programme to provide 200 000 children with a meal of fortified porridge every day. The expanded programme in which UNICEF and FAO collaborate closely, has received the full support of donors.

Malawi hosts an average 10 000 refugees and asylum seekers from the conflicts in the great lakes region and Somalia in camps at Dzaleka (Dowa District) and Luwani (Neno District). A large percentage of the refugees are totally dependent on external assistance for all of their food needs so WFP works with UNHCR and its implementing partner, the Malawi Red Cross Society to provide each refugee with a daily food ration of 2 100kcal.

The debilitating impact of HIV/AIDS seriously affects the livelihood security of households who are headed by or caring for people with the disease. With a national HIV/AIDS infection rate of 14.4 percent and an estimated 800 000 AIDS orphans being cared for, many households need support. WFP is working with 14 NGOs to provide 47 500 AIDS affected households, or 258 500 beneficiaries, with a household monthly food ration consisting of maize, plus oil, pulses and CSB.

Planned activities for 2004-05

WFP aims at continuing in 2004-05 the safety nets support of food insecure populations in Malawi through its ongoing programmes of intervention of institutional feeding and support to vulnerable communities aimed at mitigating chronic food problems. In addition, in view of the anticipated additional problems of access to food by a large part of the vulnerable populations, mostly in the South of the country stemming from the effects of the reduced 2004 food crops, WFP plans to add to its ongoing programmes a relief component to meet the additional requirements. Operational modalities for these additional activities are under review.

APPENDIX – Supporting Figures and Tables

Figure A1. Malawi: Rainfall by region, 2003/04, 2002/03 and average (mm)

Source: NOAA/FEWS; FAO/SDRN-Agro-meteorology Group (data extracted using Interpolated Estimated Rainfall images from FAO/ARTEMIS. Average rainfall data from 1961–1990).

Figure A2: Malawi Livelihood Zone Map and Description

Source: “Malawi Food Security Assessment Report” August 2003. A detailed livelihood zone description can be found in “MVAC Livelihood Profile Report”, (Oct. 2003). The zones indicated in the map are the ones for which baseline information is available and they are 11 zones in total out of the 17 identified zones. The baseline information for the remaining 6 zones will be collected in July/August 2004.

Table A1. Malawi: Fertilizer consumption, 1998/99–2003/04 (‘000 tonnes)

  1998/99 1999/2000 2000/01 2001/02 2002/03 2003/04
Urea 42 41 35 37 57 49
CAN 48 47 40 42 41 35
All fertilizers 183 192 167 175 202 209
Source: IFDC (International Fertilizer Development Centre), Malawi Agricultural Input Markets Development Project.

Table A2. Malawi: Comparison of total maize production 2002/03 with 2003/04

ADD Unit 2002/03 2003/04 percent difference
Karonga Area '000 ha 43 42 -3
  Yield t/ha 1.1 1.1 -5
  Production '000 t 49 44 -9
Mzuzu Area '000 ha 150 143 -5
  Yield t/ha 0.9 0.9 9
  Production '000 t 128 133 4
Kasungu Area '000 ha 288 291 1
  Yield t/ha 1.5 1.4 -7
  Production '000 t 438 411 -6
Salima Area '000 ha 79 79 0
  Yield t/ha 1.4 1.4 -1
  Production '000 t 111 110 -1
Lilongwe Area '000 ha 349 337 -3
  Yield t/ha 1.3 1.2 -8
  Production '000 t 443 396 -11
Machinga Area '000 ha 310 290 -6
  Yield t/ha 1.2 1.0 -17
  Production '000 t 387 300 -22
Blantyre Area '000 ha 243 258 6
  Yield t/ha 1.3 1.0 -24
  Production '000 t 308 247 -20
Shire Valley Area '000 ha 107 93 -13
  Yield t/ha 1.1 0.7 -38
  Production '000 t 119 64 -46
Malawi Area '000 ha 1 569 1 533 -2
  Yield t/ha 1.3 1.1 -12
  Production '000 t 1 983 1 705 -14
Source: NSO/MAIFS second-round crop estimates (with modifications by CFSAM where
deemed necessary).
Note: Calculations based on unrounded data.

Table A3. Malawi: Cereal production, 2003/04

    Total   Rice      
ADD Unit cereals Maize (paddy) Sorghum Millet Wheat
Karonga Area '000 ha 49 42 5.7 0.2 1.0 0.2
  Yield t/ha 1.1 1.1 1.8 0.5 0.8 0.6
  Production '000 t 56 44 10 0.1 0.8 0.1
Mzuzu Area '000 ha 157 143 5.9 0.0 8.2 0.04
  Yield t/ha 0.9 0.9 1.3 - 0.6 1.3
  Production '000 t 146 133 7.6 0.0 5.3 0.05
Kasungu Area '000 ha 294 291 1.4 0.1 1.3 0.02
  Yield t/ha 1.4 1.4 1.1 0.7 0.6 1.0
  Production '000 t 413 411 1.6 0.1 0.7 0.02
Salima Area '000 ha 84 79 5.2 0.1 0.1 0.0
  Yield t/ha 1.4 1.4 1.5 0.6 0.5 -
  Production '000 t 118 110 8.1 0.1 0.0 0.0
Lilongwe Area '000 ha 356 337 4.3 1.3 13 0.1
  Yield t/ha 1.2 1.2 1.8 0.7 0.6 0.8
  Production '000 t 412 396 7.5 0.9 7.6 0.1
Machinga Area '000 ha 324 290 17 15 1.8 0.0
  Yield t/ha 1.0 1.0 1.0 0.7 0.5 -
  Production '000 t 329 300 17 10 1.0 0.0
Blantyre Area '000 ha 299 258 5.8 32 1.1 1.7
  Yield t/ha 0.9 1.0 1.3 0.7 0.4 0.8
  Production '000 t 278 247 7.3 22 0.5 1.4
Shire Valley Area '000 ha 124 93 5.7 14 11 0.0
  Yield t/ha 0.7 0.7 1.2 0.6 0.5 -
  Production '000 t 85 64 6.6 8.6 5.5 0.0
Malawi Area '000 ha 1 687 1 533 51 63 37 2.1
  Yield t/ha 1.1 1.1 1.3 0.7 0.6 0.8
  Production '000 t 1 836 1 705 66 42 21 1.7
Source: NSO/MAIFS second-round crop estimates (with modifications by CFSAM where deemed necessary).
Note: Calculations based on unrounded data.

Table A4. Malawi: Area and production of major food-crop groups, 2003/04 and comparison with 2002/03

ADD Unit Cereals Roots and tubers Legumes
02/03 03/04 %
02/03 03/04 %
02/03 03/04 %
Karonga Area '000 ha 51 49 -4 16 18 17 24 16 -32
  Production '000 t 59 56 -6 227 291 28 13 9 -33
Mzuzu Area '000 ha 163 157 -4 47 53 14 74 58 -22
  Production '000 t 139 146 5 816 1 027 26 34 36 5
Kasungu Area '000 ha 290 294 1 31 48 54 136 144 6
  Production '000 t 440 413 -6 510 503 -1 98 98 0
Salima Area '000 ha 88 84 -4 29 23 -21 18 10 -44
  Production '000 t 126 118 -7 459 363 -21 21 14 -33
Lilongwe Area '000 ha 368 356 -3 41 47 15 161 162 0
  Production '000 t 462 412 -11 565 578 2 106 100 -6
Machinga Area '000 ha 352 324 -8 37 42 14 131 93 -29
  Production '000 t 437 329 -25 434 487 12 90 72 -21
Blantyre Area '000 ha 285 299 5 51 78 54 203 199 -2
  Production '000 t 342 278 -19 607 868 43 129 118 -8
Shire Valley Area '000 ha 127 124 -2 6 4 -31 35 29 -18
  Production '000 t 139 85 -39 73 48 -34 22 13 -41
Malawi Area '000 ha 1 724 1 687 -2 258 315 22 782 712 -9
  Production '000 t 2 143 1 836 -14 3 690 4 165 13 514 460 -10
Source: NSO/MAIFS second-round crop estimates (with modifications by CFSAM where deemed necessary).
Note: Calculations based on unrounded data.

Table A5: Affected Rural Population per district for the sampled areas.

District Total Population Affected population Percent Affected
Balaka 295 623 64 241 20
Blantyre 349 427 159 070 43
Chikwawa 425 080 172 837 38
Chiradzulu 273 893 59 899 20
Chitipa 152 691 - -
Dedza 582 289 43 963 7
Dowa 469 924 36 814 7
Karonga 230 026 1 926 1
Kasungu 589 019 38 892 6
Likoma 9 856 - -
Lilongwe 1 087 917 35 598 3
Machinga 417 594 105 746 24
Mangochi 711 179 58 162 8
Mchinji 395 171 23 944 6
Mulanje 506 598 63 924 12
Mwanza 162 739 23 031 13
Mzimba 574 384 - -
Nkhata Bay 187 906 - -
Nkhotakota 275 213 - -
Nsanje 223 278 90 785 40
Ntcheu 443 474 - -
Ntchisi 207 997 5 584 5
Phalombe 280 043 60 085 22
Rumphi 146 059 - -
Salima 308 882 35 545 13
Thyolo 539 610 229 519 42
Zomba 558 132 38 804 8
  Total 10 404 004 1 348 370  

This report has been prepared by Kisan Gunjal, Swithun Goodbody, and Raffaello Marsili under the responsibility of the FAO and WFP Secretariats with information from official and other sources. Since conditions may change rapidly, please contact the undersigned for further information if required.

Henri Josserand
Fax: 0039-06-5705-4495
E-mail: [email protected]
Mike Sackett
Regional Director, ODJ, WFP
Fax: 0027-11-5171642
E-mail [email protected]

Please note that this Special Report is also available on the Internet as part of the FAO World Wide Web (www.fao.org) at the following URL address: http://www.fao.org/giews/

The Special Alerts/Reports can also be received automatically by E-mail as soon as they are published, by subscribing to the GIEWS/Alerts report ListServ. To do so, please send an E-mail to the FAO-Mail-Server at the following address: [email protected], leaving the subject blank, with the following message:

subscribe GIEWSAlertsWorld-L

To be deleted from the list, send the message:

unsubscribe GIEWSAlertsWorld-L

Please note that it now possible to subscribe to regional lists to only receive Special Reports/Alerts by region: Africa, Asia, Europe or Latin America (GIEWSAlertsAfrica-L, GIEWSAlertsAsia-L, GIEWSAlertsEurope-L and GIEWSAlertsLA-L). These lists can be subscribed to in the same way as the worldwide list.

Back to menuBack to menu

1. For the purpose of agricultural administration, Malawi is divided into eight Agricultural Development Divisions (ADDs), 27 Rural Development Projects (RDPs) and 154 Extension Planning Areas (EPAs). The ADDs also serve as general administrative divisions, and the boundaries of the RDPs and the politically based Districts have recently been made to coincide with each other.

2. Figures A1 and A2, and Tables A1 to A5 are shown in Appendix at the end of this document.

3. Source: IFDC (International Fertilizer Development Centre), Malawi Agricultural Input Markets Development Project.

4. This section draws from: “Malawi Baseline Livelihood Profiles”, Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (MVAC), May/June 2003

5. Global Chronic Malnutrition is the percentage of children under 5 years of age who have a height that is below minus two standard deviations from the median height-for-age of the reference population. It indicates stunting of a child and portrays performance in terms of linear growth. Low height-for-age reflects long-term growth faltering, i.e. the cumulative effects of under-nutrition and infections since birth or even before birth. Source: April/May 2003 nutrition surveys, Ministry of Health and Population, 2003 * December 2002/January 2003 nutrition survey.

6. Source: National Estimate of HIV/AIDS in Malawi in 2003. National AIDS Commission, October 2003. Ministry of Health and Population, Malawi.

7. For a more detailed description of the livelihood-based methodology see “Malawi Food Security Assessment Report” August 2003.