In Malawi, smallholder farmers face many challenges - from changing weather patterns to accessing modern markets due to low yields, and incurring high costs when transporting their produce to local markets. This affects their regular flow of earnings leading to fluctuations or reductions in their income and making it difficult for them to maintain financial stability.
Since 2013, our work in Malawi has aimed to improve farmers’ livelihoods. We do this by implementing innovations to help make farms more productive, supporting farmers to embed sustainability into their farming, and by linking them up to markets.
Expanding our services to create more impact
At One Acre Fund, we support farmers through our input loan program providing smallholders with the assets (such as quality seed, fertilizer, and planting tools) they need on credit. One of our key focuses in Malawi has been growing our input loan program into new regions to reach as many farmers as possible and we now operate in seven of the eleven districts in Malawi, reaching 95,000 farmers in 2022 - up from 62,100 in 2021.
We have also worked hard to expanded the product mix we offer farmers to include soybean, groundnuts, and fruit trees.
In certain districts in Malawi’s Southern region, our trial fruit tree program offers farmers mango and orange tree seedlings. For Velian Solima, a Malawian farmer, growing fruit trees helps with nutrition for her family and also provides extra income from the sale of the fruits.
"I believe planting fruit trees such as mangoes, oranges, lemons, and papayas will not only improve the nutrition of our families but also generate income through selling the fruits to pay for my children's education,” says Velian Solima, a Malawian farmer. “The market demand for these fruits is promising. Having an extra source of income reduces my reliance on maize and makes it easier for me to repay my One Acre Fund loan and contribute to other expenses.”
And in 2022 we offered winter beans for the first time, allowing farmers to explore growing beans at a different time of the year with the goal of helping them continue earning income during the typically less productive winter season.
Soil health, agroforestry and climate resilience
Malawian farmers, like millions across the world, are facing the very real impacts of climate change. To help build their climate resilience - as well as promote sustainable farming practices - we champion soil health, agroforestry and composting.
Many of Malawi's farmers face soil health challenges such as nutrient depletion which limits their ability to harvest well. Healthy soils contribute to healthy crop growth, offer resilience to environmental shocks like drought and flooding, all while benefiting the wider environment.
“As a beneficiary of One Acre Fund's training, I learned how to create and utilize compost and how to plant trees compatibly. I believe that these techniques will help me retain moisture in the soil and mitigate drought in the future, in addition to improving my soil fertility,” says Malawian farmer Handson John.
Trees playing a crucial role in mitigating the effects of climate change - from sequestering carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to improving soil health. Their roots alone stabilize the soil, prevent erosion and promote moisture retention, and the fallen leaves and organic matter from trees contribute to enriching the soil's nutrient content.
Our tree program in Malawi plans to distribute over 8 million tree seedlings to over 350,000 registered farmers in 2023 alone, supporting them to plant new woodlots or intercropped tree lines in their crop fields.
Alongside our tree program , we're piloting a carbon credit trial that will see farmers get paid for the atmospheric carbon dioxide their trees help capture. This small-scale trial aims to deliver 150,000 trees and approximately 120,000 shrub seeds to 800 farmers in 2023.
Find out more about our tree and carbon work in Malawi in this video:
Severe weather support
In recent years, farmers in Malawi have faced extreme weather events that have added to existing stresses caused by changing weather patterns as a result of climate change. In early 2022, Cyclone Ana hit southern Malawi, causing widespread damage and devastation across several districts. Then, in March 2023, an even larger cyclone— Cyclone Freddy— affected more than 220,000 farmers' fields and crops. Almost a quarter of the farmers we serve in Malawi suffered damage to their homes, fields and crops. Through our insurance program, we were able to offer emergency support to impacted farmers, including seed redelivery and loan reductions which have helped speed up the recovery process for farmers.
In 2022, farmer Handson John observed extreme weather changes of inconsistent rain, very strong winds, and high temperatures:
“The weather changes made me lose half of my harvest. I am happy that One Acre Fund redelivered seeds to supplement the loss. Without the seeds, I would have lost three-quarters of my crop. The new seed did help increase my yield but didn’t get me back up to my usual levels since the season had already progressed. In 2022, when I harvested my crops, I got only 17 bags of produce. Normally, I would get between 40-45 bags. Before I joined One Acre Fund, I used to get 6-7 bags. Even though this year's harvest was not so good and I got less than usual, I'm happy because I still got more than what I used to get before I started working with One Acre Fund.”
Our vision is to support Malawi's farmers by meeting their present needs and building resilient communities for the future. We strive to create sustainable farming practices while addressing environmental and economic obstacles like rising input costs, inflation, and currency devaluation that remain concerning. We do this by finding innovative ways to address the challenges faced and expand our services to support farmer prosperity.