In December, joining members of civil society, the private sector, donor organizations and other Government of Malawi officials, Malawi’s Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Dr. James Munthali, presided over the country’s official launch of the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition. Malawi is one of ten African countries that have joined the New Alliance since it was announced by President Obama in 2012.
The launch event was held at Afri-Nut’s groundnut sorting and processing facility in Lilongwe. Afri-Nut is one of 23 companies that submitted Letters of Intent to invest in Malawi’s agriculture sector as part of their participation in the New Alliance. Many of these companies hosted exhibitions at the launch event, including Seed Co, the National Association of Smallholder Farmers of Malawi, Malawi Mangoes, Bio Energy Resources Limited, Ex Agris Africa, Dairiboard, Universal Industries and Rab Processors. These companies represent investments throughout Malawi’s agricultural value chain, from seed production to food processing.
In total, private sector companies have pledged more than $150 million in investments as part of Malawi’s New Alliance Cooperation Framework. This sum is in addition to $495 million pledged by development partners to support agriculture and food security in Malawi over the next three years.
Following the launch, private sector leaders joined senior Government of Malawi officials from a broad range of Ministries for a Public-Private Dialogue to advance commitments under the New Alliance. The Government of Malawi has pledged to move forward on 35 policy actions that will improve food security facilitate growth in Malawi’s agriculture sector. Some of these actions have already progressed, such as the removal of export bans for all crops except maize and rice as well as proposed revisions to Malawi’s Seed Act, which will align the country’s seed regulations with the Southern African Development Community and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa.
As part of the dialogue, private sector participants presented case studies with recommendations for policy action around the priority areas of land and water, greater availability of certified seeds, and improved terms for agricultural finance.
As outlined by President Obama at the 2012 G-8 Summit, the New Alliance aims to accelerate responsible investment in African agriculture and lift 50 million people out of poverty by 2022. Benin, Malawi, Nigeria and Senegal all launched Cooperation Frameworks under the New Alliance over the course of 2013.
Launched in 2012, the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition ushered in a new phase of global investment in food security and nutrition, building on previous G8 efforts. This joint partnership aims to accelerate responsible investment in African agriculture and lift 50 million people out of poverty by 2022.
The New Alliance includes specific commitments from:
Feed the Future serves as the principal vehicle through which the United States contributes to the New Alliance. In line with the foundational principles of Feed the Future, the New Alliance supports country-driven approaches to development with input and collaboration from local organizations and leaders to ensure lasting results for smallholder farmers and their families.
To support expanded partnerships and interest of additional African countries, companies and donor partners beyond the G8 expressing interest in joining the New Alliance as it enters its third year in 2014, the New Alliance's Leadership Council is co-convened by the African Union, the World Economic Forum, and the United States.
New Alliance Country Cooperation Frameworks align with priority activities within each partner’s Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) national investment plan and include predictable funding commitments, specific policy actions, and statements of intent from the private sector.
In 2012, the United States leveraged its presidency of the G-8 to deepen the global commitment to food security through the establishment of the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition. At the G-8 Summit hosted by President Obama at Camp David, African heads of state, corporate leaders and G-8 members pledged to partner through the New Alliance and, working with the African Union and Grow Africa, lift 50 million people out of poverty in sub-Saharan Africa by 2022.
Development partners, African governments, and international and local private companies committed to specific policy reforms and investments that will accelerate the implementation of country food security strategies under the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program, and sustain inclusive agriculture-led economic growth.
By partnering with the private sector during its first year, the New Alliance has already leveraged more than $3.7 billion in private investment in African agriculture. The New Alliance has also expanded over its first year. G-8 leaders this year welcomed the addition of Benin, Malawi, and Nigeria to the New Alliance, joining existing members Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mozambique and Tanzania who have negotiated rigorous Country Cooperation Frameworks for accelerating investment that include policy reforms, private investment intentions, and donor commitments to align predictable assistance flows behind recipient country priorities.
The U.S. government, in collaboration with civil society and other partners, has been a strong advocate for nutrition, particularly during the critical 1,000 days from a woman’s pregnancy to her child’s second birthday, when better nutrition can have a lifelong impact on a child’s future and help break the cycle of poverty.
U.S. commitments to nutrition extend beyond the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition to encompass Feed the Future, the Global Health Initiative, and food aid programs. Over the last year, Feed the Future reached than 12 million children through nutrition programs that have reduced anemia, supported community gardens, fostered fortification, and treated acute malnutrition. Working on the ground in nineteen countries, Feed the Future has helped 7 million farmers adopt improved technologies or management practices, increasing yields and improving livelihoods.
The U.S. government announced at the UK’s Nutrition for Growth event on June 8th that we have nearly doubled nutrition funding and tripled agriculture funding since 2008, including providing $1 billion for nutrition-specific interventions and nearly $9 billion for nutrition-sensitive activities over fiscal years 2012-2014. U.S. investments are expected to accelerate trends in stunting reduction, and our goal is to reduce stunting by 20 percent over five years in the areas where Feed the Future works, translating into 2 million fewer stunted children. U.S. efforts also support the World Health Assembly goal to reduce childhood stunting by 40 percent by 2025.
This fact sheet originally appeared on the The White House website.
In Malawi, undernutrition is a serious problem and a major contributor to the country’s other poor health statistics, including rates of maternal mortality, infant mortality, and stunting and anemia in children.
One of the barriers to good nutrition starts before any crops can be grown or harvested.
High-quality seeds that farmers can use to grow enough healthy, nutritious crops are in short supply year after year, leaving farm associations, unions and extension agents without the inputs they need to help ensure a good harvest.
A Feed the Future project focused on integrating nutrition into local value chains has partnered with the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) to help address this problem by developing a new and higher-performing soybean variety called “Tikolore,” which means “let us harvest” in the local language. Soybean plants grown from Tikolore seeds mature more quickly, yield more beans, are resistant to a disease known as “soybean rust” and can be stored for longer periods of time compared to other soybean varieties. Since soybeans are high in protein and other nutrients, improving the performance and availability of soybean crops is one step toward fighting stunting among children under five years of age in Malawi.
Since Tikolore was officially released in Malawi in 2011, Feed the Future has been working to get the new seed variety into the hands of more farmers and their families. In partnership with the Clinton Development Initiative, Feed the Future and IITA supported the multiplication of Tikolore soybeans at Mpherero Anchor Farm, an experimental farm near the Zambian border.
Once harvested, these seeds will establish the foundation for a new Soybean Seed Revolving Fund, aimed at improving seed availability in Malawi. The fund will enable farmers to store improved seed supplies and sell them when prices are advantageous, rather than having to sell or dispose of them immediately after harvest when prices are low. This arrangement will both boost farmer incomes and help disseminate the superior soybean variety in Malawi so that it can be sold and consumed more widely.
The revolving fund was recently launched at Mpherero Anchor Farm during a field visit attended by stakeholders from all across Malawi's soybean value chain. Smallholder seed producers, private seed companies, farmer organizations, agricultural extension officers and development practitioners all gathered to learn about the properties and best practices for growing Tikolore from the farm managers, who are producing the basic seeds, and IITA, which bred the original variety.By connecting smallholder farmers with the private sector seed companies who have the capacity to produce certified Tikolore seeds at scale, Feed the Future expects to see this improved variety reach farmers across Malawi within the next six months to a year. Demand for soybeans in Malawi is rising fast, and the current crop of basic Tikolore seed is expected to add at least 32,000 tons of soybean grains to the market in the coming seasons. This supply increase will not only improve availability of soybeans for private sector manufacturers, but also ease the demand for imported soybeans once Malawians are able to more easily grow and purchase this nutritious crop domestically.
Today, U.S. Department of State Special Representative for Global Food Security, Jonathan Shrier (Acting), and Joint Secretary (Information Technology and Extension) Indian Ministry of Agriculture Mr. Sanjeev Gupta, visited the first agricultural training program of the India-U.S.-Africa triangular partnership. The United States Government is funding this training program through Feed the Future, the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative. This triangular partnership aims to improve agricultural productivity, strengthen agricultural value chains, and support market institutions in Kenya, Liberia, and Malawi.
Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Shrier explained that, as part of the broader U.S.-India Agriculture Dialogue, our triangular engagement “will share proven innovations from India’s private and public sector to address food insecurity, malnutrition, and poverty in the target African countries.”
Led by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Indian National Institute of Agricultural Extension Management (MANAGE), this three-year training program will build the capacity of 180 agriculture professionals from the three African countries by providing extension management, agricultural marketing and agri-business training at MANAGE in Hyderabad and at the Chaudhary Charan Singh National Institute of Agricultural Marketing in Jaipur.
To learn more about Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative visit: www.feedthefuture.gov.
This press release originally appeared on the U.S. Consulate General Hyderabad website.
Read Shrier's remarks from the event
Read a press release from the Government of India
Over the next five years in Malawi, Feed the Future aims to help an estimated 281,000 vulnerable Malawian women, children, and family members—mostly smallholder farmers—escape hunger and poverty. More than 293,000 children will be reached with services to improve their nutrition and prevent stunting and child mortality. Significant numbers of additional rural populations will achieve improved income and nutritional status from strategic policy engagement and institutional investments.
Seven districts straddling central and southern regions (Dedza, Mchinji, Lilongwe, Ntcheu, Mangochi, Balaka, and Machinga)
Additional information on implementation of
In Malawi, Feed the Future is working with the Ministry of Agriculture to improve efficiency and accountability in the fertilizer value chain through innovative new mobile technology that tracks data on deliveries, inventories and sales in real time.
Smallholder farmers in Malawi face many challenges in accessing high-quality inputs such as seed and fertilizer for their crops. The Ministry of Agriculture’s Farm Input Subsidy Program provides these inputs to half of the country’s three million farmers, using a paper voucher system to track thousands of shipments of seed and fertilizer as they are transported around the country. Fertilizer is particularly expensive, since it must first be imported to landlocked Malawi and then transported long distances to 1,300 rural markets, often using poor-quality roads that are impassable once the rains begin.
These difficult conditions combined with the high price of fertilizer unfortunately mean that the system for tracking shipments is highly susceptible to fraud, loss and theft. Truck drivers and others along the fertilizer value chain at times profit by diverting their cargo or diluting it with soil and sand, preventing smallholder farmers from receiving critical deliveries.
To address this problem, Feed the Future collaborated with Malawi’s Ministry of Agriculture and other development partners to pilot an electronic tracking system that uses mobile phones to communicate via Short Message Service (SMS, or text messaging) between warehouses and the 1,300 market locations where fertilizer is delivered. All SMS communication is automatically documented in a centralized database, and when deliveries leave a warehouse the agriculture officers and market clerks in the field are notified of the estimated time of arrival, the truck registration number, and the number of fertilizer bags that will be delivered.
This system makes truck drivers aware that their deliveries are being tracked daily and saves farmers from traveling to markets to wait for fertilizer deliveries that may arrive several days late or not at all. It also allows the Farm Input Subsidy Program to re-position fertilizer if necessary and to notify the police if trucks do not arrive or do not deliver their full inventory.
The pilot has been so successful that the Government of Malawi is interested in expanding electronic fertilizer tracking nationwide for the next planting season. Feed the Future will also introduce a pilot e-voucher system, allowing farmers to receive their fertilizer and seed vouchers over mobile phones and redeem them with vendors, who will then be reimbursed automatically. The prospect of much speedier payments through the e-voucher system is expected to boost private sector participation in fertilizer markets.
More private sector participation means more market outlets for farmers to access the inputs they need to improve their crop yields—thus, this innovative mobile technology solution is a win for farmers, businesses and Malawi’s agriculture sector.
After an early morning departure from Tanzania, we arrived in the Malawian capital of Lilongwe in a steady rain. The rain is not always favorable for travel, but it was very welcome in Malawi after a drought during the 2012 rainy season impacted the maize crop and food security, particularly in the south.
As I continued my first media tour as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations food and agriculture agencies in Rome I was excited to have two reporters from Malawi join the group of seven talented reporters traveling with me, five African and two European, to witness programs on the ground and help tell the Malawian story of increasing food security in Africa.
Despite the difficult situation in the south, it is an exciting time to visit Malawi because of the Government of Malawi's great leadership in improving agriculture (as well as emergency response to the drought), promising innovations in improved crops and markets for smallholder farmers, and a growing 'bottom up' community ownership of food security and nutrition programs.
Innovative Markets and Home Grown Aid
On our first day in the country we visited the Agricultural Commodity Exchange (ACE), an innovative USAID and the UN World Food Program (WFP) supported program that assists smallholder farmers to improve the quality of their crops, creates a market for them to sell in, and increases the prices they receive. Smallholder farmer Michael Banda told us how crop price updates he receives via text on his cell phone and credit receipts for properly storing his maize allowed him to increase his profits by as much as 200 percent.
"The warehouse receipt allowed me to get a loan, which I used to build a new house and pay school fees for my children," Banda told us. Even more exciting, the WFP, through its Purchase for Progress program, uses the commodity exchange to purchase much of its commodity needs locally. It was hard not to be impressed with this innovative new system that supports local farmers while increasing aid efficiency through reduced transportation costs.
Three Crops a Year, Even During a Drought
Improving food security involves many factors and one of the most impressive examples we saw was the USAID-funded Wellness Agriculture for Life Advancement (WALA) project in Zomba District. Despite the drought of last year, participants in this multifaceted project were flourishing after using a combination of conservation agriculture, small scale irrigation, community savings and loans, and mother care groups to improve health-related behavior. I was impressed to hear a group of women farmers tell me how, thanks to conservation farming techniques and diversification, their crops survived a three-week dry spell last year while neighboring communities lost their entire harvest.
In the course of my visit, I was very encouraged to see that the U.S. Government's food security initiative, Feed the Future, was well aligned with the strategies of the Malawian government and the UN agencies and showing real results. As Beatrice Makwende, the director of the National Association of Smallholder Farmers told me, "The future belongs to the organized." I saw this organization coming from the community again and again, and I believe it will be the key to sustained success in improving food in Malawi.
This blog post originally appeared on the U.S. Department of State's Dipnote blog. David Lane serves as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Agencies in Rome.
Read more blog posts from the trip: