Feed the Future Malawi: Five year project to bridge  farmer, buyer gap

Some 300,000 smallholder households in Mchinji, Dedza, Ntcheu, Balaka, Machinga, Mangochi, Lilongwe rural and Blantyre rural are to benefit from an agriculture diversification project which aims at improving incomes, food production and nutrition uptake.

Some of the farmers showing off their orange-fleshed sweet potato. It is one of the value chains the project is promoting for its high nutritive content.

The project, Feed the Future Malawi Ag Diversification Activity, is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

The project’s Chief of Party, Carl Larkins, said Wednesday the initiative is designed toaddress issues of low incomes, dietary diversification and effects of climate changeby improving access to better markets, agriculture productivity and resilience to climate change.

Through the project, said Larkins, nutritional outcomeswill also be boosted and women’s empowerment raised.

“Malnutrition and stunting are common in the target districts. In addition, climate change and weather variability are introducing serious risks and uncertainty. The project thus seeks to provide meaningful solutions to these challenges by integrating agricultural growth with improved nutritional behaviors, increased resilience to climate change, and women’s empowerment,” Larkins said.

The project, which currently targets soy, groundnuts and orange fleshed sweet potato (OFSP) smallholders, will engage private firms to enhance key service areas like financing, agricultural processing and training in new technology and climate smart agriculture practices.

Malawian smallholder farmers face multiple constraints which include limited scale, low product quality and output, and limited access to financing. Smallholdersalso have few linkages to commercial partners and lead firms and sell mostly into spot markets, when prices are low, immediately following the harvest.

To enhance yields and offer smallholder farmers the opportunity to get a second crop, the project plans to champion the integration of drip irrigation in its interventions.

According to Feed the Future Malawi, farm families also face challenges balancing priorities between saving food for home consumption and selling into commercial markets.

Over the course of the program, the Ag Diversification Activity aims to establish at least 50 commercial partnerships between buyers and smallholder farmers and increase the number of value chain crops.

“With $30M in new agricultural loans and $40M in new investments, Feed the Future Malawi has significant scope to expand the activity and introduce commercial sustainability in the country’s agricultural sector. Private investment supplements what the donors are contributing, and ensures sustainability in the market system beyond the time when the donor support is finished,” Larkins said.


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