For Malawi, the path out of poverty starts with farms


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Emily Alpert, a senior policy manager at ONE, is reporting on agriculture programs live from Malawi.


When I woke up this morning, it was gray, cloudy and smelled distinctly of rain. While this might seem like a gloomy day when staying in bed might be the preferred option, rain here in Malawi is a lifeline for millions of smallholder farmers who depend on agriculture –- and rain -– for their livelihoods.

Over the next week, I’m going to be learning about a number of agricultural development programs in Malawi. Some are part of the US government’s Feed the Future Initiative. Others are funded through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. What I’m fascinated by is the opportunity to learn about how all the programs put together, from research and seed development to marketing and trading, make up the agricultural value chain. Not to mention, the importance of linking all of these components together to generate improved farm productivity, income, growth and eventually poverty reduction. At ONE, we call this the “multiplier effect.”

If you take a look at ONE’s infographic on the multiplier effect here (see image above), this is how I envision the sites I’m going to visit this week will fit into the cycle:

  • Smart agriculture investments could be the development of improved seed varieties for cassava, pigeonpea, chickpea, maize and cassava produced at the Chitedze Research Station
  • Crop diversity occurs when smallholders, like the ones that participate in the Wellness Agriculture and Livelihoods Advancement in Zomba (part of the US Feed the Future Initiative) produce a variety of staple grains, legumes and vegetables
  • The Chitedze research on legume crops helps to provide a key source of protein in diets and improved access to fresh dairy products from the Chistano dairy farm also improves nutrition
  • The World Food Program’s Purchase for Project (P4P) pilot operating in Malawi right now not only buys food from smallholders (trade crops in markets), but the food they donate to schools helps kids, especially girls, to stay in school
  • At the Feed the Future Market Linkages Initiative, Chitosa Trading –- a grain bulking warehouse -– is a growing business, employing grain purchasers and creating a guaranteed market for small-holder farmers leading to improved incomes for everyone involved
  • Funwe Farm, a small seed production business supported by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, practices conservation agriculture improving soil health, helps farmers in the community to become more productive and creates employment for more than 150 people throughout the year

All in all, I hope to see that these programs and initiatives together are creating a sustainable path out of poverty for Malawi’s small-holder farmers and rural communities. Stay tuned for updates along the way.


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