Achieving Sustainable Food Systems in a Global Crisis: Malawi

Ceres2030 Deep Dives into the Nexus of Food Systems, Climate Change, and Diets

This report presents an evidence-based and costed country roadmap for effective public interventions to transform agriculture and food systems in Malawi in a way that ends hunger, makes diets healthier and more affordable, improves the productivity and incomes of small-scale producers, and mitigates and adapts to climate change. The report is part of a project that explores the interaction between achieving healthy diets, reducing hunger and poverty, and addressing climate change within the evolving food systems in three countries—Ethiopia, Malawi, and Nigeria. 

By Livia Bizikova, Alan De Brauw, Mali Eber Rose, David Laborde, Kulthoum Motsumi , Mike Murphy, Marie Parent, Francine Picard, Carin Smaller on August 31, 2022

Agriculture and food systems in Malawi face key challenges. They need to simultaneously provide sufficient food for all, improve incomes and productivity for small-scale producers, make diets healthier and more affordable, reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and build capacities needed to adapt to climate change. Yet, in the past few years, as a result of climate change, economic slowdowns, and COVID-19—and now rising food, fertilizer, and energy prices made worse by the Russian invasion of Ukraine—hunger and poverty have been on the rise, healthy diets are unattainable for most people, and the impacts of climate change are experienced more frequently and severely.

Even among those who do get enough calories, many will be malnourished due, in part, to the unaffordability of diets that both provide sufficient calories and satisfy the complex nutritional requirements of human bodies. The demographic dynamics in Malawi will continue to exacerbate these challenges, with the population expected to grow from 19.1 million people in 2020 to 25.8 million people in 2030. As the population and incomes grow in Malawi, so too will demand for food and more dietary diversity, which will exacerbate environmental challenges. At the same time, Malawi is home to some of the global public goods that are needed to address climate change, preserve biodiversity, and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Transforming food systems to deliver on hunger, poverty, healthy diets, and climate change while safeguarding global public good will require significant efforts and resources—and therefore global solidarity; in other words, more domestic support and more external aid.

To support the transition to sustainable food systems in Malawi, this report aims to equip country-level decision-makers and the donor community with knowledge regarding the cost of sustainable food system transformation; evidence on which to base decisions regarding where and how to make investments to contribute to access to simultaneously sufficient, safe, and nutritious food (SDG 2.1 and 2.2); smallholder productivity and incomes (SDG 2.3); and environmentally sustainable agriculture production (SDG 2.4).

The report combines a review of country-level policy documents and peer-reviewed literature with a microeconomic analysis of changing diets, food consumption habits, and nutrition; four rounds of consultations with in-country stakeholders; and the country-level findings for Malawi from the project, Ceres2030: Sustainable Solutions to End Hunger. The findings are integrated into a computable general equilibrium (CGE) model, which estimates the cost of ending hunger, doubling the income of small-scale producers, and transitioning to healthier diets while protecting the climate and investing in climate change adaptation. The report is part of a project that explores the interactions between reducing hunger and poverty, achieving healthy diets, and addressing climate change within the evolving food systems in three countries—Ethiopia, Malawi, and Nigeria.

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