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Most of Malawi’s 4 million households still rely primarily on rainfed crop production with limited use of agricultural inputs for their food needs. But subsistence farming is failing to meet the dietary requirements of all Malawians: In recent years, several hundred thousand households annually have faced acute food insecurity. Insufficient harvests have resulted from either too little or too much rainfall and from limited use of inputs, while landholdings shrink as the population grows. Yet the country’s policy approach to food security continues to center on subsistence production.
Trade restrictions such as export bans have been a popular way for governments to protect their countries’ domestic food supplies, but research suggests that such policies are largely ineffective and even detrimental. A new policy note from the Malawi Strategy Support Program examines Malawi’s use of these policies and presents alternative policies that could help better meet the country’s food security and agricultural development goals. (Also read about the use of export bans in Tanzania )
According to the World Bank, Malawi ranks among the countries in the world that are most vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change, including exposure to drought, dry spells, and flooding. These extreme weather events can reduce the country’s agricultural production, threatening the livelihoods of millions of smallholder farmers and increasing food insecurity and poverty, especially in rural areas.
Focusing on agricultural growth, particularly that of smallholder farmers, can help countries in Africa south of the Sahara achieve broader economic and development objectives, including poverty reduction, says a new open-access book prepared by the United Nations University (UNU-WIDER) and published by Oxford Press.