Charting the way forward for climate-resilient agriculture in Malawi

06 December 2019

Value-addition and diversification high on the agenda - with priority given to female smallholder farmers and traders.

Malawi, a country affected by food insecurity and extreme weather events with an economy based largely on subsistence agriculture, has been seeking ways to strengthen its agricultural productivity and diversify its export basket.

Local farmers’ associations, civil society, private sector, development agencies and officials from government institutions gathered at a national workshop in Lilongwe from 21 to 22 November to examine how to leverage trade in agriculture to promote rural development in Malawi and ensure food security.

UNCTAD organized the workshop that brought together all stakeholders to raise their awareness and understanding of how trade policy in specific sectors can empower women, reduce rural poverty and create an agriculture more resilient to the climatic events – notably floods and drought – that regularly afflict the southern African country.   

The workshop was part of a broader UNCTAD project on agricultural policies to support small-scale farmers and enhance food security. The project was launched in 2017 for Vanuatu, Guatemala and Malawi.

There is growing realization about the need to diversify the Malawian economy away from dependence on a single crop – tobacco – whose exports are now in decline, towards other high-value crops.

Harvesting tes in Malawi
Tea is one of the main economic products of Malawi

The workshop focused on three promising oilseed sectors, sunflower, groundnut and soybean, for value addition and diversification, which could generate higher earnings than sales of the raw crop.  

It yielded a set of recommendations and action plans for implementation, including on: strengthening the productive base for consistent quality; ensuring incomes, livelihood and food-security of smallholder farmers and women are addressed, making sure farming practices are environmentally friendly and climate resilient, and enhancing multi-stakeholder dialogue. 

The workshop validated findings and follow-up actions for the government, in particular the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism (MoITT) are ongoing. The workshop also provided an opportunity to foster dialogue between different government entities to ensure the sustained coherence of their political decisions and priorities in achieving defined goals and create the basis for future collaboration between Malawi and UN organizations.

Following the workshop, UNCTAD’s principle partner in Malawi, Francis Zhuwao, expressed optimism for positive future collaboration between UNCTAD and Malawi. Ambassador Robert Dufter Salama from the permanent mission of Malawi in Geneva played a key role in guiding and facilitating the workshop and its successful outcome.

The outcome from the workshop is expected to feed into and be aligned closely with the forthcoming Malawi’s new national export strategy.

UNCTAD will seek to play an important role in overseeing and monitoring progress made regarding implementation of the action plan strategies.  In close collaboration with the MoITT, UNCTAD will also identify any gaps in implementation and identify any follow-up actions required. Subsequently the lessons, positive impacts and outcomes generated for Malawi’s economy as a whole, and for smallholder farmers in particular, will be evaluated.