Food Security Framework | Underlying Factors
- Prolonged dry spells in the mid of the growing season are becoming a common occurrence, resulting in frequent localized or widespread crop failure.
- Isolated incidents of flooding during the growing season, particularly along the lakeshore area, and river banks, causing significant crop and property losses.
- Fragile livelihoods dependent on rain-fed agriculture are highly vulnerable to food insecurity in times of poor rainfall, particularly in the southern districts of Nsanje and Chikwawa where rainfall is quite erratic.
- High levels of both acute and chronic vulnerability attributed to high levels of poverty. There has been a long-term process of structural change in the agricultural economy which has led to decreasing productivity. This has increased vulnerability to external shocks such as drought and flooding. Increased vulnerability is the fundamental cause of the regular incidence of crises, and these crises will continue to occur until the fundamental structural weaknesses in the agricultural economy are addressed. For the past two seasons, the government has been implementing a fertilizer subsidy program to increase fertilizer usage by the poor, thereby increasing their productivity. High input cost for both fertilizer and improved seed has been one of the major constraints faced by resource poor farmers in their quest to increase productivity.
- Widespread poverty accentuates food insecurity as it limits purchasing power and capacity to diversify livelihoods. As a result of low rural incomes, many households do not have the means to purchase their way out of any production failure, even for short periods. In addition, this drastically reduces the choices many households can make in terms of their basic needs, especially choices in the quality of food. Shortages of cash also force households to make uneconomic choices, such as selling productive assets or selling produce required by the household at harvest time for a low price and then, when they obtain a little money, purchasing it back again later in the year at a high price.
- Soil erosion, which results in low productivity unless with fertilizer application. Given low rural incomes, the poor cannot afford expensive fertilizers without government subsidy.
- The economy is characterized by high transport and business operating costs and low producer prices for the main cash crops, tobacco and cotton.
- Food utilization in Malawi is generally poor. Inadequate knowledge about food values, food choices, childcare and feeding practices, gender issues, and intra-household distribution of food affect the way households benefit nutritionally from the available foods. The government ratified the national food and nutrition policy a year ago but implementation is slow due to lack of resources.