Malawi is an extremely poor country, with 41 percent of its population living in poverty, and a low ranking of 173 out of 187 countries in the 2015 UN Development Program Human Development Index. More than 80 percent of Malawians live in rural areas and depend largely on rain-fed agriculture, which is highly vulnerable to recurrent drought, climatic variation, and natural disasters. Malawi periodically experiences major reductions in food production due to climatic shocks, and the situation is exacerbated by an unfavorable policy environment, low investment in agriculture, and lack of agriculture diversification. The result is food and livelihood insecurity for millions of rural Malawians, and an increasing reliance on humanitarian assistance, especially in central and southern Malawi.

Food for Peace Development Food Assistance Programs (DFAPs)

To help improve food security and build resilience among vulnerable populations, USAID’s Food for Peace funds two five-year development programs in southern Malawi. These programs are United in Building and Advancing Life Expectations (UBALE), implemented by Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in Blantyre Rural, Chikwawa, and Nsanje districts, and Pathways to Sustainable Food Security (Njira), implemented by Project Concern International (PCI) in Balaka and Machinga districts. Both activities focus on increasing access to and availability of diverse and nutritious foods, improving health and nutrition of pregnant and lactating women and children under five, and building resilience of vulnerable households. Integration and close collaboration with USAID’s Feed the Future activities enables UBALE and Njira to reach vulnerable rural populations with improved agricultural technologies and practices that have the potential to dramatically increase production, access to markets, and resilience of smallholder farming systems.

Humanitarian Assistance

USAID, through Food for Peace and the U.S. Office for Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), is a major contributor to humanitarian response in Malawi. USAID contributes in-kind food commodities, as well as cash for local and regional procurement of food commodities and distribution of maize from the Government of Malawi’s Strategic Grain Reserves for distribution to the populations targeted by the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee. Through the World Food Program, USAID also supports a Food for Assets program which targets vulnerable community members with food commodities needed to improve their food and nutritional security in exchange for labor on community works such as afforestation/reforestation, watershed management, and small-scale irrigation. USAID’s Food for Peace five-year development activities, described above, work to build resilience to shocks in the districts in Malawi which are most vulnerable to natural disasters and the most frequent recipients of humanitarian assistance, with the aim of reducing reliance on humanitarian assistance.

Related Stories and More Information

Feed the Future Malawi

Malawi Food Security USAID
Malawi's dependence on rain-fed agriculture makes the country prone to perennial food shortages
Save The Children