Promoting agriculture to support economic growth in Malawi

Malawi suffers from high rates of poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition. With most of the population relying on agriculture for their livelihoods, this project aims to promote climate-resilient, sustainable growth of the agriculture sector through a joint initiative comprising seven CGIAR research centers, led by the International Potato Center (CIP).


The economy of Malawi is highly dependent on agriculture, with around 80% of the population relying on this sector for their livelihoods. However, a growing population, declining soil fertility, unreliable rainfall, reliance on just a few staple crops, and small holding sizes combine to trap many small-scale farmers in a cycle of low yields and persistent poverty. Consequently, about half the population lives on less than USD1 a day, with around 25% being classed as very poor (< USD 0.20 a day). There is an urgent need to invest in the development and dissemination of new agricultural technologies and build the skills of smallholders, researchers and government officers to maximize the potential of agriculture to contribute to national development.

This project contributes to the sustainable development and diversification of Malawi’s agriculture sector and strengthens the national agricultural research and extension system. The International Potato Center (CIP) coordinates the activities of seven international agricultural research centers located in Malawi, jointly providing a range of science-based production technologies and the necessary inputs, as well as offering training to farmers, researchers and entrepreneurs.


The six-year program aims to promote climate-resilient, sustainable agricultural growth and build incomes, employment and food security in Malawi. The specific objectives are to:

  1. increase agricultural productivity and diversification;
  2. develop agriculture value chains to create employment and boost incomes; and
  3. strengthen the governance of the agriculture sector.

The project has three main components:

  1. promoting a sustainable increase in productivity and diversifying the types of crops grown;
  2. increasing incomes of farm enterprises by developing local value addition of raw staple food crops; and
  3. supporting better governance by improving information flows.

The team has adopted a forward-looking innovation systems approach, based on demonstrating, improving and disseminating a range of agricultural technologies developed by CGIAR research centers and the national agricultural research system. Implementing partners ensure knowledge is passed to farmers via communitybased facilitators and farmer field schools. The project identifies areas requiring additional research, technology development and adaptation; agri-business development; and investment opportunities. Broad-based dissemination is achieved by using three rural training centers and 15 outreach sites, where farmers are invited to see the new technologies in the field and join in participatory learning and assessment activities.

The project also addresses the fact that women and young people currently have little or no influence on family productive resources, by ensuring equitable inclusion in all participatory processes regarding technology and adaptation. It prioritizes the involvement of women and young people in seed multiplication activities.

Expected outcomes

The project will develop integrated technology packages to disseminate improved varieties of potato, sweetpotato, beans, maize, groundnut, pigeon pea, sorghum, millet, cassava and cowpea. It will also provide inputs, knowledge and training on soil fertility management, water-use efficiency, agroforestry, integrated pest and disease management and aquaculture.

In phase I, the key outputs include identifying the innovations available and appropriate to each agroecological zone of Malawi, and developing a dissemination strategy. Extension workers and lead farmers will receive training on these new technologies, with complimentary support and advice provided for those working in the national research system.

The team will then ensure farmers have access to the new technologies by developing a sustainable system of production and distribution of quality planting materials. These activities will be supported by the dissemination of complimentary systems and inputs that restore degraded land and water resources as well as improve soil fertility.

Toward the end of the intervention, supported by the project, partners will focus on developing agricultural value chains and boosting employment opportunities through design of a strategy that encourages investment in primary production, value addition and enterprise development. This approach seeks to improve the governance of the agriculture sector by enhancing public information and consultation, and strengthening accountability of the government of Malawi toward agriculture.

Key outputs
Farmer-field schools established by implementing partners 13,460
Households supported through farmer field schools 400,000
Outreach sites 15
Districts where activities implemented 1o

May 2018–July 2019 (phase I)

EUR 2 million

Project Profile: Link to Document


Daniel van Vugt
CIP, Malawi

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