The World Food Program recorded that in 2012, food insecurity affected 1.6 million Malawians, a significant increase from 200,000 in 2011. As a result, maize imports have increased, as well as food prices.
Malawi, along with Ethiopia, Niger, and Angola, has asked the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to increase support of the African Union’s existing food security improvement programs. As a result, pilot programs will be launched in the four countries. The programs aim to improve access to water, inputs of information, and training for smallholding farmers, as well as provide safety nets, cash, food vouchers, and school cafeterias to supplement the resources that Malawians in poor and rural areas may lack.
The Malawian government’s previous efforts to improve food security and the nutrition of their population have included encouraging people to keep sheep and goats and to plant more legumes. Legumes and beans have in the past been considered “poor people’s food,” but the effort to change attitudes continues. Other organizations, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture Research Service (ARS), have also been promoting legumes. The ARS started collaborating with Malawi’s farmers and the University of Malawi’s Bunda College of Agriculture to develop beans with greater resistance to heat, drought, and disease. To begin the trials, many large-seeded dry bean varieties were planted in Mozambique and will be planted in Malawi in the next planting season. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Citizens Network for Foreign Affairs (CNFA) have also implemented the Farmer-to-Farmer Program in Malawi, Mozambique, and Angola, working in collaboration with farmers, cooperatives, agribusinesses, and extension agencies, especially focusing on legumes, oilseeds, and horticulture.
The National Smallholder Farmers’ Association of Malawi (NASFAM) is also encouraging smallholder farmers to grow groundnuts, also known as peanuts, and cowpeas. In an April 15 interview with BBC Radio (no longer available for listening), CEO Dyborn Chibonga explained that in addition to helping Malawian smallholder farmers increase yields by no longer tilling farmland, NASFAM has a farmer-to-farmer training program, in which the trained group of farmers travel through rural areas and teach others through in-field trainings, meetings, and demonstration plots.