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Policy Briefs

MwAPATA was established with a grant from the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World via Michigan State University, and continues with the support of the Foundation, the United States Agency for International Development and several other partners.

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The Economic and Social Cost of Land and Soil Degradation in Malawi

May 3rd, 2024

About 40% of Malawian soils are in poor health, and they continue to degrade annually through loss of topsoil, soil organic matter, and acidification. To restore Malawi’s soil health and improve agricultural productivity, the country’s Action Plan on Fertilizer and Soil Health should comprehensively be financed and implemented by all stakeholders 

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Welfare impacts of seasonal maize price fluctuations in Malawi

April 30th, 2024

Maize prices in Malawi fluctuate throughout the year, impacting both sellers and buyers. Using maize market price data and integrated household survey, we assess welfare impacts of seasonal maize price fluctuations.  The paper discusses policy measures for price stabilization to mitigate fluctuations.

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Informal and unstructured market opportunities for groundnut value chain development in the Central region of Malawi

April 9th, 2024

This research policy brief provides an insightful analysis into the groundnut sector in Central Malawi, where interviews with 444 groundnut farmers and 160 traders shed light on market access and practices in relation to the country's agricultural diversification objectives. 

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Understanding Groundnut Seed Access, Usage and Preferences amongst smallholder farming households in the Central region of Malawi.

April 9th, 2024

 The study analyses the types of groundnut varieties planted, sources of the seed planted, quantity of seed planted per acre compared to production guidelines, and the challenges faced by farmers during production. The study also presents results from a seed choice experiment, highlighting smallholder farmer preferences for seed.

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Pre-disaster preparedness and post-disaster response measures in the District Councils of Southern Malawi

March 11th, 2024

This study analyses early warning systems, disaster preparedness and response in Southern Malawi's district councils. It highlights key challenges faced and makes some recommendations for strengthening disaster risk management.

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Patterns of social safety nets, weather shocks, and household food security status in Malawi

February 17th, 2023

While social safety nets and farm input subsidies have been found to play a significant role in cushioning households against shocks, there is a need for the Government and development partners to improve targeting so as to reach the deserving and intended poor households.

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Agricultural Diversification Challenges and Opportunities in the Malawian Groundnut Value Chain

January 31, 2023

Based on production and export data, groundnut has the potential to contribute to Malawi’s agricultural diversification agenda, for both food and export purposes. The findings of this study recommend three main areas for policy consideration in the groundnut value chain.

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An assessment of the potential for scaling Malawi’s wheat production for domestic consumption and export

November 15, 2022

Scaling production of wheat in Malawi will fail unless challenges are addressed. These include overreliance on rainfed production, limited access to improved varieties for wheat, fertilizers, capacity building in best agronomic practices, and lack of access to existing lucrative markets.

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Transforming the Aquaculture Sector in Malawi: Key Lessons from the 2022 SADC Regional Fisheries Dialogue Side Event

July 13, 2022

More than one million Malawians are involved in fishing and aquaculture. Representatives from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) gathered to discuss how to improved the sector's contributions to economic growth. This Brief summarizes their conclusions.

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Economic Viability of Small-Scale Aquaculture in Malawi

April 13, 2022

Small-scale aquaculture in Malawi is profitable, despite the challenges faced by fish farmers. There is potential to further profitabilty by improving the feed and fingerling production, identifying lower cost alternative feeds (such as insects), and investing in aquaculture extension.

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Characteristics of the Small-Scale Aquaculture Sector in Malawi

March 31, 2022

We describe the small-scale aquaculture sector in Malawi using  updated comprehensive data  from a survey of fish farms across the country. The brief presents an overview of fish farm and farmer characteristics, farm management, input usage, production ,and marketing in the country.

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Opportunities for Small-Scale Aquaculture in Malawi

March 10, 2022

Small-scale aquaculture could contribute to improving rural livelihoods, but fish farmers are impeded by poor access to inputs like feed and fingerlings, and output markets. Promising areas for investment are highlighted in this Brief, based on an extensive new survey conducted in Malawi in 2021.

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Distributional Impacts of Tobacco Cultivation in Malawi

March 9, 2022

This brief investigates the distributional impacts of smallholder tobacco cultivation in Malawi - who has grown, who is still growing, and their relative wealth. The declining share of farmers still producing tend to be relatively well-off and more productive. This has implications for the nation's diversification strategies.

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Redesigning the Affordable Inputs Program to Diversify and Sustain Growth

February 8, 2022

The State President has suggested the need to redesign Malawi's agricultural productivity strategy that is currently centered primarily on fertilizer subsidies. This brief lays out evidence-based suggestions to accomplish this with short-, medium-, and long-term policy changes. Extension and infrastructure are key.

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Policy Options for Smart Subsidies in Malawi

January 31, 2022

This Brief, prepared by MwAPATA and the International Food Policy Research Institute, examines alternative strategies to promote agricultural growth and alleviate poverty. The authors emphasize raising returns to fertilizer use and discuss how cash transfers could improve food security and resilience.  

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The 2020/21 Affordable Inputs Program: Key Implementation Issues and Messages

October 10, 2021

Three Institutions - MwAPATA, the Policy Support for Agricultural Transformation Project, and the European Union Delegation in Malawi - undertook independent assessments of the inaugural year of the AIP. This brief synthesizes these to highlight consistently noted successes and challenges.

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The Inorganic Fertilizer Price Surge in 2021: Key Drivers and Policy Options

August 27, 2021

Retail prices for commonly used fertilizers have steeply risen in recent months. In this brief we break down the drivers and estimate that at least 90% of the increases can be attributed to changes in global markets for food, fuel, and fertilizer. Policy action requires difficult choices on how to distribute this imposed burden.

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Assessing Alternatives to Tobacco Farming for Smallholders in Malawi

May 31, 2021

We assess the profitability of Malawian tobacco and potential alternatives. Over the past 10 years the share of smallholders growing tobacco has declined from 16% to just 5%. Improving value chains for alternative crops is likely more cost-effective than moving the few remaining smallholders out of tobacco.

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Trends in Tobacco Production and Prices in Malawi

May 6, 2021

Diversification away from tobacco production is regarded as a priority for Malawi. This paper characterizes broad trends in production since 2000 in order to understand whether Malawi is shifting away from tobacco and how production and the prices received by farmers have changed over time.

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Exploring Adoption Effects of Subsidies and Soil Fertility Management in Malawi

May 3, 2021

Malawi has implemented input subsidies for decades, yet key crop yields remain low. Low crop response to subsidized inputs is partly attributable to poor soil health and low adoption of soil and water conservation. This brief examines joint adoption of subsidized fertilizer and other fertility management practices.

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Lessons Learnt: Promises, Achievements, Shortcomings and Pitfalls of Malawian Input Subsidies

April 12, 2021

Malawian governments have spent substantial resources on agricultural input subsidies over the years. While achievements can be celebrated, improvements could be made to increase the impact of money spent on subsidies. We highlight successes, factors hindering impact, and  options for improving subsidies.

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Food Imports in Malawi: Trends, Drivers, and Policy Implications

January 29, 2021

Malawi has huge agricultural potential but, Malawi's food demand outpaces domestic production, making the nation a heavy net food importer. Drawing on several data sources, this paper provides an in-depth analysis of food import trends and their drivers, and explores policy options for shifting the trade balance.

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Manufacturing and Industrialization in Malawi: Trends, Opportunities, and Strategies

October 21, 2020

We review experiences from other fast-growing economies in sub-Saharan Africa and newly industrialized economies in East Asia to draw out lessons for Malawi’s industrialization strategy to promote employment, wealth creation, and reduced economic vulnerabilities associated with primary agricultural products.

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An Early Assessment of the Impact of COVID-19 in Malawi

September 23, 2020

The COVID-19 crisis has impacted every facet of Malawi's agricultural value chains. We present and evaluate new data from across the spectrum to begin to allow policy makers to make decisions with information on how the country has been affected and discuss the importance of continued monitoring.

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August 27, 2020

This study investigates the causes of challenges in programs, policies and strategies implementation in agricultural sector and draw lessons that can inform the ministries responsible for agriculture and rural development address these challenges.

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The Future of Smallholder Farming in Malawi

August 26, 2020

The brief characterizes smallholder farming in Malawi, projects the consequences of a ‘business as usual’ strategy and identifies promising government strategies to support smallholder livelihoods and contribute to wealth creation.

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July 7, 2020

This brief seeks to 1) highlight the urgent need for change in Malawi’s economic management and performance, 2) highlight policy interventions that Malawi could adopt to achieve significant economic development, and 3) address the question of how the necessary transformation may be brought about.

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