Improving sustainable agricultural practices and access to diversified livelihoods opportunities and savings groups could help increase Malawians’ resilience to droughts, floods, pests, and price shocks.

women with sweet potatoes


Resilience activities in Malawi aim to make the country’s largely poor and rural population less vulnerable to droughts, floods, pests, and price shocks. Because most people are engaged in agriculture, the Government of Malawi and international donors are focusing on sustainable agricultural growth, livelihoods, and nutrition.

Complex Risk Environment

Malawi’s population remains largely poor and rural, with low agricultural productivity and limited opportunities for nonfarm employment. Most farmers rely on rainfed agriculture for food and income. Climate variability, recurring droughts and floods, pests such as fall armyworm, and price shocks, especially high costs of agricultural inputs, high food prices, and falling tobacco prices, all contribute to household vulnerability.

Some research suggests that fiscal mismanagement is a greater driver of economic volatility than weather shocks, and until recently, the Government of Malawi has focused far more on coping with shocks than mitigating them. Safety net programs, for example, remain extremely limited.

Resilience Approach

The Government of Malawi’s 2018 National Resilience Strategy shifted focus away from merely coping with shocks to building resilience through sustainable agricultural growth; risk reduction; flood control and early warning and response systems; human capacity; livelihoods and social protection; and catchment protection and management.

Donor activities focus on building food and income resilience by increasing access to and availability of diverse and nutritious foods; improving health and nutrition; and increasing access to improved agricultural technologies and practices that increase production, access to markets, and resilience of smallholder systems.

Opportunities for Strengthening Resilience

Results from one project showed that creating synergies and layering interventions is more effective in building household resilience than participating in just one intervention, and that sets of interventions should be tailored depending on the household’s situation. Studies from the project also showed that household participation in either a crop group or livestock group, coupled with participation in women’s empowerment or village savings and loan groups, accelerated resilience.

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