Farmers in Malawi need urgent help after heavy flooding

Prompt access to seeds and livestock will help reboot local food production

Farmers in southern Malawi urgently need seeds and livestock after intense flooding destroyed their fields and homes, washing away animals and crops and threatening local food security.

Maize crops washed away with floods.- Photo by Jeromy Kadewere

Maize crops washed away with floods.- Photo by Jeromy Kadewere

FAO Representative Florence Rolle

FAO Representative Florence Rolle

More than 170,000 people have had to leave their homes. Some 79 deaths have been confirmed so far, while 153 people are still missing in Nsanje district alone. An estimated 116,000 households have lost their crops and livestock.

Malawi is regularly affected by droughts and floods. But the current heavy rains have come ahead of their usual schedule – repeatedly bursting the banks along the Shire and Ruo rivers – and their impact has been far wider.

Warnings of flash floods remain active as moderate to heavy rains are expected in the country’s northern regions. It is estimated that more than 63,000 hectares of land is under water, including 35,000 hectares of crop land, and a state of emergency has been declared for 15 of Malawi’s 28 districts. The the  most affected districts are Chikwawa, Nsanje and Phalombe.

Untold numbers of goats and chickens have perished where waters rose with unexpected speed, raising the risk of livestock disease outbreaks.

$16 million plan to save the farming season

The government’s response plan includes a $16 million budget for agricultural needs  to put affected farmers back on track to plant and harvest food during this agricultural season. For some fields, crops could be ready as early as June, thus mitigating the need to rely on long-term humanitarian programs.

FAO aims to work closely with the Malawi Government to supply them with short-cycle varieties of maize, rice, sweet potato, cowpeas, vegetable seeds and cassava cuttings for replanting as soon as feasible. At the same time, local families need new livestock to ensure animal protein intake, and irrigation facilities should be restored before the dry season to ensure food production.

“Failure to respond promptly will have lasting consequences,” said Florence Rolle, FAO Representative to Malawi.

“Flood-hit families risk harvesting nothing or very little this year, leaving them food insecure at the very outset of the agricultural season and undermining much of the progress being made in reducing food insecurity in Malawi.” she said.

Long-term watershed management needed to tackle recurrent crises

Some 86 percent of Malawi’s population live in rural areas and engage in farming and rearing livestock. Average yields on crops in the country have for decades been half that recorded for southern Africa as a whole.

The nation enjoyed a bumper maize harvest in 2014 and overall cereal production rose by 8 percent, leading to lower core food prices and cutting by more than half the number of people assessed as food insecure. However, last year’s crop had been weak in the districts most affected by the current flooding, prompting local food-security alerts and causing Malawi to be added in October 2014 to the list of countries requiring external assistance for food.

Malawi’s districts are regularly hit by floods and droughts,  requiring emergency responses of varying size each year. The frequency and magnitude of the recurrent disasters are worsened by deforestation, population pressure and widespread poverty.

Long-term watershed management infrastructures are urgently needed so that even intense flooding is less damaging than this year.

Building resilience

FAO has been working closely with the Government and other partners in Malawi to build more resilient livelihoods and reduce exposure to risks such as floods and dry spells.

Last year FAO, together with UNDP, UNICEF and WFP, started piloting an integrated approach to resilience integrating nutrition education, climate smart agricultural practices, saving and loans and disaster risk reduction in the district of Phalombe which has been severaly hit by the current floods.  This project is supporting the Government of Malawi’s national social protection support strategy and programme.

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9 thoughts on “Farmers in Malawi need urgent help after heavy flooding”

  1. Namalira says:

    Time to enforce proper land management systems. Abale mpaka kumanga numbs mphiri, pantsinje kumati madizi athawa, Kulima mmusi mwa ntsinje in the name of irrigation farming. Ufulu tiri nawowu tisaiwale Kuti ulinso ndi udindo Otherwise we will keep on crying.

  2. mthako wa alhomwe says:

    Foolish people moti mukambe zothandiza mukungonena ma tribe anzanu. you tribalistic stupid dunderheads. Talk of Malawi osati district

  3. Lifeyo says:

    The issue of one child per family its not exesting in this country .The maxmum is 4.but if u wont u can have 1/2 .Over clouded is becsuse most people they dont have entertainment in there home.then opted sex through the night even day time when theyre free .the government should find something in the villages.or make a law that can panish any body that gives biryh to morr than 2/4 as in CHINA

  4. Patriot says:

    Pa nthawi imeneyo AGALUakunhonjambulana zinthunzi “ndapereka ndi ine” Double Disi. “Ayisanapereke ameneyo koma ine” Razzaq.
    kkkkkkkk
    ZOPUTSA UFITI ETI

    BOMA ILI MULUNGU SAKULIFUNA

  5. ujeni says:

    Time to intensify family planning and implementation of one child per family policy, otherwise Southern Region will continue to face such catastrophies due to human pressure eg wanton cutting of tree as income generating activities to feed big familiies and shortage of agriculture land due to overpopulation leading man to cut trees in catchment areas.

    1. tiSA says:

      alhomwe tingaimve ya one child per family ukunamatu ujeni

      1. Malindima says:

        Nanga ayawo, autumbuka, achewa, ansena and all others? I have seen from all these having more than 5 children. They say kuthako kulibe maphunziro!

    2. Mlolo says:

      If you are having a procreative problems it’s upto you ujeni.siuzampeza iwe hule iwe mpaka kale.uzingonyengedwa choncho mpaka kale.siuzampata.unyaaaa

    3. Amwene anthu akufa ndimadzi wosefukira ndiye tizileranso , sititha ?

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