CLIMATE CHANGE AND SMALLHOLDER  FARMING IN MALAWI: THE WAY FORWARD. A paper presented at  ABE International Seminar 2016 ‐April12‐13, University of Ts...

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CLIMATE CHANGE AND SMALLHOLDER  FARMING IN MALAWI: THE WAY FORWARD. A paper presented at  ABE International Seminar 2016 ‐April12‐13, University of Tsukuba

Goodfriday Yamungo Chikwezga 2015 ABE Fellow Graduate School of Life & Environmental  Sciences ‐SUSTEP University of Tsukuba


• • • • • •

A landlocked country, Malawi is situated in southeast Africa, between latitudes 9 degrees and 17 degrees south and longitudes 33 degrees and 36 degrees east. It is bordered by Tanzania to the north and northeast, Mozambique to the south and southwest and Zambia in the west. covers 11.8 million hectares, of which 9.4 million is land, while the rest is composed of water bodies dominated by Lake Malawi. Of the total land area, 31% is suitable for rain‐fed agriculture, 32% is marginal and 37% is unsuitable for agriculture. Malawi’s population is estimated at 17million. 85% of the population is based in rural areas with women forming 51% of the population In Malawi smallholder farmers account for 78 per cent of the cultivated land and generate about 75 per cent of Malawi’s total agricultural output.


Like many other developing countries, Malawi has not been spared from  the severe impacts of climate change.

In the last two decades, Malawi has experienced a number of adverse  climatic hazards. 

The most serious ones have been dry spells, seasonal droughts, intense  rainfall, riverine floods and flash floods.

In Malawi climate change is a threat to economic growth, long‐term  prosperity, as well as the livelihoods of an already vulnerable population.

Ninety per cent of the population are dependent on rain‐fed agriculture,  60 per cent of whom are food insecure on a year‐round‐basis. 

In Malawi smallholder farmers account for 78 percent of the cultivated  land and generate about 75 per cent of Malawi’s total agricultural output.

The vast majority of farmers rely on rain fed production with little capacity  to invest in irrigation.

Climate sensitive rain‐fed agriculture is a major contributor to the national  gross domestic and foreign exchange earnings and supports the  livelihoods of over 80 per cent of Malawians who are involved in primary  and secondary agricultural activities.

The rains are unpredictable; they can come too heavy and all at once. 

Dry spells ruin crops or stunt the growth of young plants.

Climate extremes and weather events severely erode the resilience and  adaptive capacity of individuals and communities via declining yields and  food security. 

UNICEF (2013) indicates that flood conditions, especially in the south of  the country can result in food insecurity with significant impacts on the  livelihoods of poor people in rural areas.


• Climate variability influences the types of technologies that are  developed and transferred to end‐users.  • This is particularly so in agriculture. There is need, therefore, to  develop technologies that will be adaptable to climatic fluctuations. • Promotion of drought‐tolerant crop varieties and livestock in  drought vulnerable areas. • Development of infrastructure for irrigated agriculture. Malawi is  home to Africa’s third‐largest freshwater lake — Lake Malawi — yet  less than 3 per cent of the land is irrigated. • Promotion of crop growing using residual moisture, especially along  dambos. • In addressing adaptation challenges, it is imperative that a  multisectoral approach is taken, beginning at the community level  with the smallholder farmers who are directly affected by climate  change.