Integrating the non-commercial and commercial input markets through input vouchers or coupons in Malawi

Malawi’s agricultural sector remains central to rural development and alleviation of poverty amongst the rural poor. The sector has great potential to improve the welfare of rural people through creating employment, and reducing staple food prices through improved technologies and sustainable production systems. It also remains a major sector contributing to the country’s economic growth. The sector is, however, faced with a number of problems that result in continued low productivity. These problems include poor macroeconomic performance, declining soil fertility, and recurring natural disasters such as droughts and floods. 


Because of declining performance of the agricultural sector, the government introduced a number of interventions aimed at improving the sector’s productivity and contribution to the economy and welfare of the people. The interventions have included the starter pack scheme and the Targeted Input Programme (TIP) jointly funded by the government of Malawi, the European Union (EU) and the Department for International Development (DFID) among other donors; and the Sustainable Productive Inputs Livelihoods Through Inputs for Assets (SPLIFA) programme funded by DFID and implemented through a consortium of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs). Several other organizations such as the Canadian Physicians for Aid & Relief (CPAR)-Malawi, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) have also undertaken input interventions (especially seed). 

Interventions by the NGO sector have largely been in response to natural disasters while those of the government are part of its agenda to ensure improved productivity and increased food security at both household and national levels. 

In this context, the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) has been supporting studies on experiences of several southern African countries with the use of agricultural input vouchers. The Centre for Agricultural Research and Development (CARD) at Bunda College of Agriculture has been responsible for the Malawi case studies over the past two years. This Policy Brief is based on a recently completed field-evaluation of Malawi’s experiences and lessons learned.