Soya and cassava for Malawi

11.07.2016 – The Government of Malawi is keen for farmers to grow food instead of tobacco, as this is the best long-term defence against hunger. GIZ is supporting the switch.

GIZ: Sunflowers instead of tobacco (2016)

The severe drought in some regions of Malawi may lead to significant harvest losses. This is due in part to the El Niño weather pattern and monocultural agricultural practices. As a result up to 6.5 million of the country’s 17 million people face the risk of hunger this year, according to the United Nations.

In order to prevent future crop failures and improve food security, the Government of Malawi is keen to encourage farmers to grow more food. At present, tobacco is Malawi’s main export crop. However, for farmers in this small south-eastern African country, the ‘green gold’ is both a blessing and a curse. The price of tobacco on the world market fluctuates considerably, and the plants are fragile and tend to dry out on depleted soils. This causes income losses and food shortages – and, ultimately, hunger.

Recognising the problems, the Government of Malawi is keen to promote diversification. Growing soya, peanuts, sunflowers and cassava in addition to tobacco improves food security for the country as a whole, especially when combined with effective crop rotation to preserve soil fertility.

GIZ is assisting Malawi to achieve its national development goals by promoting the cultivation of oilseeds and cassava. To that end, GIZ is cooperating with various agricultural training providers: for example, it has revised the curriculum for the Agricultural Research and Extension Trust, where 150 students and trainers a year learn how to advise smallholders across the country on growing sunflowers, peanuts and soya in addition to tobacco. GIZ has provided resources for the Trust’s library and is currently renovating one of the buildings and setting up a laboratory and a training room. Demonstration fields are being established and equipped with an irrigation system. A video about these project activities is now available.

The project also increases value-added further along the cassava and oilseed supply chains. Cassava, a tuber, is an important source of starch and can be processed into highly nutritious flour. However, Malawi has currently very limited cassava processing capacities, despite the high local demand for this product. GIZ’s experts are also facilitating contacts between former tobacco farmers and oil-processing firms, which supply farmers with seeds and guarantee to purchase their crop. At present, there is underproduction of soya and sunflowers in Malawi and overcapacity in its processing industry, so the aim is to address this deficit.

Malawi’s farmers are on track to improve their country’s food supply and boost value-added – and therefore their own incomes as well.

These activities are part of the One World, No Hunger special initiative launched by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). Over the next two years alone, 17,000 smallholder households will benefit from the green innovation centres in Malawi and from other programmes. With annual per capita income of just 230 euros, Malawi is still one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world.

Video on YouTube

GIZ: Sunflowers instead of tobacco. 2016