Malawi, a small landlocked country bordering Zambia, Tanzania, and Mozambique, remains one of the world’s poorest countries. It was ranked 171st out of 187 on the 2011 UNDP Human Development Index and 45th out of 79 on the 2012 Global Hunger Index. Over 40 percent of the country’s 14 million people live on less than US$1 per day (2012 Government of Malawi MDG Report). According to the 2010/11 Integrated Household Survey, poverty declined slightly from 52.4 percent in 2005 to 50.7 in 2011 . The poverty levels for urban and rural areas declined from 25.4 to 17.3 percent and 55.9 to 56.6 percent during this period, respectively (World Bank 2012). Malawi’s economic growth has slowed in recent years, from a peak of 9.7 percent in 2008 to an estimated less than 3 percent in 2012; such low growth is significantly below Africa’s average projected growth of 4.8 percent (World Bank 2012).

Agriculture is Malawi’s most important economic sector, employing about 80 percent of the population. Over 90 percent of the rural population is made up of smallholder farmers cultivating plots whose average size is only 0.8 hectares (IFAD 2012). Maize accounts for over 80 percent of cultivated land; the country produces an average of 3 million tons of maize annually, above the 2.3 million ton level needed for self-sufficiency. However, widespread food shortages are commonly experienced during lean seasons, leading many rural households to suffer from chronic food insecurity and malnutrition. Over-use of marginally productive lands, soil erosion and nutrient depletion, poor access to financial services and markets, unfavorable weather events, and small landholdings all combine to exacerbate food insecurity. Post-harvest losses are estimated to be around 40 percent of production (IFAD 2012). According to the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee report released in June 2012, more than 1.6 million people in rural areas will be at risk of hunger in 2012 and 2013 (WFP 2012).

Access to education, basic social services, and financial services is extremely limited in Malawi. An estimated 30 percent of poor children never attend school, and only 12 percent of rural households have access to credit (IFAD 2012). In addition, frequent shocks from weather-related events, illness, and injury further increase poverty traps. Such shocks often force poor households to sell their productive assets, withdraw children from school, and reduce food consumption.

Since May 2012, the government of Malawi has instituted strict reforms aimed at revitalizing the economy, including devaluation of the local currency. The government has also launched an Economic Recovery Plan (ERP) that focuses on expanding social protection programs (including public works, school feeding, cash transfers, and farm input assistance) and strengthening the commercial agriculture, tourism, energy, mining, and IT sectors (World Bank 2012).

Agricultural Production
Agricultural Production2011201220132014
Rice Production
FAO 2014
117,733 MT110,964 MT125,156 MT111,437 MT
Wheat Production
FAO 2012
1,850 MT1,956 MT1,784 MT1,178 MT
Maize Production
FAO 2012
3,699,147 MT3,618,699 MT3,639,866 MT2,776,277 MT
Soybean Production
FAO 2013
75,665 MT106,592 MT111,977 MT120,903 MT
Agricultural Exports
Agricultural Exports2010201120122013
Rice Exports
FAO 2013
1,269 MT954.00 MT1,521 MT1,841 MT
Wheat Exports
FAO 2012
7,337 MT11,213 MT11,213 MT1,515 MT
Maize Exports
FAO 2013
7,841 MT357,302 MT15,393 MT1,857 MT
Soybean Exports
FAO 2012
10,671 MT5,041 MT2,184 MT14,333 MT
Agricultural Imports
Agricultural Imports2010201120122013
Rice Imports
FAO 2013
751.00 MT310.00 MT2,861 MT977.00 MT
Wheat Imports
FAO 2012
176,822 MT161,000 MT150,000 MT192,000 MT
Maize Imports
FAO 2010
15,395 MT6,106 MT0.00 MT60,514 MT
Soybean Imports
FAO 2013
1,868 MT90.00 MT790.00 MT597.00 MT