6 FOOD SECURITY AND NUTRITION
6.1 ASPIRATION FOR FOOD SECURITY AND NUTRITION
Malawians aspire for all members of all households to have access to adequate and safe food at all times of the year to meet their nutritional requirements.
To achieve this aspiration, the following strategic issues will have to be addressed: increasing food production; developing irrigation; developing the livestock sub-sector; improving efficiency of markets; reducing post harvest losses; improving disaster management; improving land utilization and management; economically empowering vulnerable groups; promoting non-farm income generating activities; and improving nutrition status of the people.
6.2 STRATEGIC CHALLENGES AND OPTIONS
6.2.1 Increasing Food Crop Production
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The main problem is that there is emphasis on maize as the staple food. Consequently, 75% of smallholder land has been allocated to maize production. In addition, yields are low owing partly to the fact that a small proportion of farmers use fertilizer. There has been lack of enterprise diversification due to dependence on maize. Research and extension has not been effective in generating the technology to maintain food security and in encouraging diversification of agricultural production.
The challenge to increasing food production is to ensure that average yields are increased and crop and enterprise diversification are enhanced to reduce dependence on maize.
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Strategic options to address the issue of increasing food crop production and productivity include:
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There is low Per Capita consumption of animal protein in Malawi with negative nutrition consequences. For example, in 1990 per capita consumption of animal protein was estimated at 6.3kg, which is less than 12.5 kg average for Africa. The livestock sub-sector has not received adequate attention in the past despite the fact that it has enormous potential for contributing to food security, nutrition and incomes.
The challenge is to develop the livestock sub-sector so that it makes the nation self-sufficient in animal products and export profitably any surplus that may arise.
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Strategic options to developing the livestock sub-sector include:
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Agricultural production and productivity can be increased through use of irrigation. Irrigation has received low priority in the past despite the fact that irrigation can significantly contribute to the development of this country by stabilizing production in times of drought, and promoting diversification into high value crops.
The challenge is to extend and improve irrigation so as to stabilize production in times of drought, promoting diversification into high value crops and facilitate crop intensification so as to increase agricultural productivity.
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Strategic options to address the issue of developing irrigation include:
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The country's market information system is under-developed. There is also lack of packaging technology, which could improve product presentation, inefficient use of land, and underdeveloped financial markets to serve the majority of farmers.
The challenge is how to develop an efficient agricultural market system where farmers and traders make informed decisions based on market signals.
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The strategic options to address the issue of efficiency of markets include:
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Increasing pressure on land due to population increases and poor soil conservation has contributed to degradation of a large proportion of land.
The challenge is to ensure that degraded land is rehabilitated in order to restore its productivity.
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Strategic options include:
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Post-harvest loss is one of the major factors lowering final availability of farm produce. The losses occur in the stages of transportation, storage, processing and preservation. The losses compromise food security.
In the 1995/96 season, Malawi's post harvest losses for major food crops (maize, rice, pulses, groundnuts and sweet potatoes) were estimated at between 5 and 25 percent.
The strategic challenge is to develop clear policy and programmes on post harvest technology in order to reduce losses to less than 5%.
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The strategic options available for reducing post harvest losses include:
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Malawi does not have a national disaster plan that can serve as a basis for mitigation and responding to disasters.
The challenge is for Malawi to mitigate and manage disasters effectively in order to ensure national food security and nutrition.
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The strategic options to improve disaster management include:
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In Malawi, diets are bulky and monotonous. Meals consist of "nsima" made from maize or cassava flour taken together with cooked vegetable dishes. The result is a high level of chronic under nutrition and micronutrient deficiencies.
The challenge is to ensure that the majority of Malawians have access to the necessary energy, proteins and micro-nutrients needed for active healthy life.
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The strategic options to improve nutritional status are:
6.2.9 1 Strategic Challenge
Food security is partly linked with the incomes of people. Thus, efforts to increase the rural non-farm incomes will have a positive effect on food security and nutrition.
The challenge is therefore to raise people's incomes to such a level that they can afford to purchase enough food at all times.
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Options for increasing the incomes of the masses include:
The conventional top-down approach to implementation of agricultural programmes often neglected certain sections of the community and failed to reach the targeted poor members of the society. As a result, there is significant proportion of resource poor smallholders, especially female-headed households, that do not benefit from the various programmes.
The challenge is to design programmes that will address the majority of resource poor households.
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The formulation and implementation of policies should be carefully analyzed to understand their implications. At macro-level, policies need to be analyzed in terms of their impact on food security and nutrition, agriculture and natural resources to see whether goals and objectives are being achieved.
The strategic challenge to improving policy analysis is to deploy adequate human resources to do the analysis, and cultivate respect for use of professional analysis of agriculture issues.
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The strategic options for improving policy analysis include: