Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN)

Food security policy
August 2006
Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security


  1. The Constitution of Malawi recognises that access to and utilisation of nutritionally adequate and safe food in the right quantities is a right of each individual. This will enable them to lead an active and healthy life.

  2. Improving the living standards of the people of the country has for a long time been an immediate need. Building on the Vision 2020, the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS) is centered on achieving strong and sustainable economic growth, building a healthy and educated human resource base, and protecting and empowering the vulnerable. It seeks to ensure economic growth, economic empowerment and food security so that Malawians are less vulnerable to economic shocks. The MGDS also aims at putting in place measures to protect those who temporarily fall into poverty through measures to increase assets for the poor1.

  3. The Integrated Household Survey of 1997/98 indicates that approximately 65.3% of the population is poor and cannot meet their food requirements and basic non-food needs annually.

  4. Many factors interact to create a food insecure situation in Malawi: chronic poverty, low agricultural productivity, poor infrastructure, ecological constraints, inappropriate economic policies, limited arable land other demographic and social factors. These are not discrete, independent factors, but related elements of the food security-malnutrition equation. However, it is widely accepted that the primary cause of food insecurity and malnutrition in Malawi is chronic poverty: the persistent lack of economic opportunity either to produce adequate safe and nutritious food or to exchange labour for the income to purchase adequate, safe and nutritious food.

  5. Agriculture is the backbone of Malawi's economy, accounting for 36% of GDP, 87% of total employment and remains one of the most important sources of income as it accounts for 65.3% of total income of the rural poor. Promoting agricultural growth and diversity will contribute to national and household level food security.

  6. Natural disasters, such as drought, floods and crop destruction by pests and diseases, have had adverse effects on the country's national food supply situation. Poor land use management and inadequate use of fertilisers exacerbate the effects of natural disasters. Experience with these types of problems has heightened the Government's commitment to ensure that the country has access to adequate supplies of food at all times to meet subsistence and commercial needs.

  7. Food Utilization in Malawi is generally poor. Inadequate knowledge about food values, food choices, combinations of the Malawi Six Food Groups2, childcare and feeding practices, gender issues, and intra-household distribution of food affect the way households benefit nutritionally from the available foods. The current nutrition education primarily targets women and yet decision makers at household level are men.

  8. Inadequate appropriate skills and technologies for food preparation, preservation and storage lead to high food losses in terms of both quantity and quality. Food taboos resulting from cultural and religious beliefs limit consumption and/or use of certain foods hence reduces food diversity at household level.

  9. Diseases affect the utilisation of the consumed food as they may cause malabsorption of nutrients, loss of appetite, nausea, and direct loss of nutrients. General ill health can result in loss of productivity.

  10. There is inadequate coordination in collecting, analysing and disseminating agriculture and food security information resulting in irrational interventions, repetition and duplication.
  1. MoEPD (January 2006): Specific Objective Malawi Growth and Development Strategy.
  2. The six food groups are staples, animal products, legumes, vegetables, fruits, fats and oils.

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