Working Paper 6: Changes in Food and Nutrition Security in Malawi: Analysis of Recent Survey Evidence

Woman drying maize in Malawi (Source: CIMMYT 2012)

Woman drying maize in Malawi (Source: CIMMYT 2012)

A large proportion of Malawian households are caught in a trap where poverty and food insecurity reinforce one another and where periods of food deficits and severe food crises are frequent occurrences. In recognition of this, the Malawian government has since 2005/06 implemented a large-scale Farm Input Subsidy Program (FISP), which supplies half of smallholder farmers with sufficient fertilizer and maize seeds to satisfy the maize consumption needs of an average-sized family. While the program boosted maize production and lowered maize prices, thus ensuring increased caloric availability at the household level, its effect on overall food consumption, dietary diversity, micronutrient deficiency, and child nutrition is less clear. This study evaluates household expenditure survey data to measure changes in nutrition outcomes between 2004/05 and 2010/11. While the study is not an evaluation of the nutritional impact of FISP per se, it does shed some light on the possible nutritional effects of the program. The results are disconcerting. For example, we find evidence of rising consumption inequality associated with a rise in extreme poverty and a significant increase in income among the urban non-poor. Although calorie deficiency declined—including among the rural poor, dietary diversity among the rural poor decreased and mineral and vitamin deficiencies increased nationwide, especially in rural areas. The various child nutrition indicators reveal mixed results. For example, chronic child malnutrition declined substantially, whereas acute malnutrition increased. The study also highlights several concerns related to data quality and inconsistencies in estimated changes in food and nutrition indicators when compared to results from alternative datasets. By Iñigo Verduzco-Gallo, Olivier Ecker, and Karl Pauw, 2014.

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