Diversification of Smallholder Tobacco Systems to include Groundnut (Malawi)

Tobacco is the mainstay of the economy of Malawi, accounting for over 70% of export earnings. Of the 100 000 members of the National Smallholder Farmers' Association of Malawi (NASFAM), 60% rely on tobacco for their sole source of income. Like their counterparts elsewhere, they face many difficulties, including: fluctuating prices coupled with rising production costs; health concerns due to high chemical and pesticide use; soil degradation due to the leaching of nutrients; deforestation due to the demand for timber (for barn-building) and fuelwood (for curing); and negative social impacts resulting from the labour-intensive nature of the work.

This grant will allow the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), NASFAM and the Meteorological Department to help farmers diversify their cash crop production to include groundnut (a legume), for which there are lucrative national, regional and international markets. Researchers will assess how diversification can mitigate some of the disadvantages of tobacco farming, identify market opportunities and constraints, and develop location- and climate-specific strategies. Special attention will be paid to the long-term climate variability in the region.

This project is one of three IDRC projects aimed at helping farmers move away from tobacco production. The other two are based in Bangladesh (103435) and Kenya (103765), and each one has taken a different approach. The three research teams will meet regularly to compare notes and generate lessons learned.

Project ID


Project status


Start Date

Thursday, February 7, 2008

End Date

Monday, May 31, 2010


24 months

IDRC Officer

Leppan, Wardie

Total funding

CA$ 318,000


Malawi, North of Sahara, South of Sahara, Bangladesh, Kenya


Maternal and Child Health

Project Leader

Dr. Moses Siambi


International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics

Institution Country


Institution Website