Given that 85% of Malawi’s population is agricultural smallholders, our focus has been largely on supporting farming systems. Early efforts improved crop production and processing methods.

For example, researchers developed a low-cost wooden tool to shell groundnuts, saving farmers time and money. Research modified hand pump designs to make them more durable. The Government of Malawi then began manufacturing the improved devices and engaged local villagers to install them.

While we continue to support research on agriculture, high rates of HIV/AIDS infection have shifted our priorities to health and nutrition. As well, the impact of climate change has focused research attention on helping farmers adapt to variable rainfall patterns.

More nutritious crops

Our support has aided the fight against poverty and malnutrition in Malawi. Researchers helped health institutions find ways to address degraded soils, food insecurity, and child malnutrition.

For example, more than 7,000 farmers in the Ekwendeni region adopted the recommendation to rotate traditional corn crops with legumes, such as groundnuts and

pigeon peas. The results: healthier children, improved soils, and larger harvests without the use of fertilizers. The community’s food security has increased and farmers have gained income by selling surplus crops.

Food security and HIV/AIDS

Our funding supported the creation of the Regional Network on HIV/AIDS, Livelihoods and Food Security, which highlighted the complex links between HIV/AIDS and access to nutritious food. Researchers showed that AIDS contributes to food insecurity by depleting the agricultural workforce, and diverting spending from farm inputs to health care.

They also found that the threat of hunger contributes to the transmission of HIV/AIDS, because it forces some Malawians to engage in high-risk sex to subsist. With the Network’s help, the Government of Malawi integrated food and nutrition programs into its HIV/AIDS prevention strategy.

Total IDRC Support

70 activities worth CA$16.3 million since 1978

DFID/L.Mgbor

Our support is helping

  • test adaptation strategies to address climate change, health, and food security
  • explore urban-rural interdependence and the impact of climate change on food supply systems
  • simplify tools and training to improve access to high-quality patient care for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and other diseases
  • increase young rural women’s political participation in Malawi

Projects