Agriculture , food security, and nutrition in Malawi: Leveraging the links
This report (PDF) by IFPRI aims to answer the question: “How can Malawi better leverage its smallholder agriculture sector to improve nutrition?” Results of the report reveal that while nutrition may not be a priority for Malawian households, they do have a preference for diversifying their diets. Barriers are lack of availability and lack of finance to access different foods. In addition, inequality is increasing and poor households are consuming fewer vegetables, resulting in improved food security but worse nutrition security. One approach to access diverse diets is to diversify own production. Another approach is through increasing irrigation, which can promote nutrient-rich but water-intensive crops. Irrigation can increase productivity and reduce seasonal gaps in production. Food prices will also fall if production increases, which would allow Malawians to achieve their aspirations for more diverse diets. Diversification and irrigation are policy objectives of the Malawian Government. Diversification is key component of its approach to development. Most important for nutrition outcomes will be how diversification is implemented. Diversification into cash crops will only lead to improved diets if diverse foods are available and affordable in the markets. Diversification into production of nutrient richs crops and animal-source foods is important to drive availability and access. Further research is needed to understand which pathway is best in improving diets. Measurement of effects of agriculture on diet is often limited by data disconnection, whereby individual dietary data are missing. So, there is a need for individul dietary data. Aspects of seasonal availability must be explored and better understanding of the contribution of native, wild and forage foods to diets is needed. Finally, a critical message is the need to focus more strongly on diet quality – availability and affordability of nutrient-dense foods – as key goal for leveraging agriculture for improved nutrition and health.