Policy Note 28: Priorities for Irrigation Investment in Malawi

With an already high (and fast growing) population, a high dependence on rain-fed agriculture, and high vulnerability to the effects of climate change, Malawi's food security status is at risk, especially if strategies to enhance food production under a changing climate are not prioritized.

Irrigation offers a key solution to food insecurity in the face of rapid population growth and recurring droughts and floods, as agriculture remains the main livelihood for most Malawians. Yet, only about a quarter of Malawi's potential irrigable land has been developed for irrigation, a real missed opportunity. However, irrigation expansion in Malawi would require  US$2,146 million for initial infrastructure, and US$278 million as annual recurrent costs—not to mention, significant political will.

A new IFPRI-Malawi Policy Note on irrigation investment in Malawi, authored by Chiyembekezo Chafuwa, explores the major benefits, costs, and priorities for expanding irrigation in a country so vulnerable to shocks, yet so dependent on rain-fed agriculture. In the Policy Note, Chafuwa highlights the need for investment allocations and strong farmer involvement in the maintenance and rehabilitation of existing irrigation infrastructure, and not focusing solely on initial investments for new irrigation schemes.

Chafuwa goes on to make several recommendation in order to maximize the returns from investment in irrigation. Some of these suggestions include prioritizing public funding by Government and/or development partners, especially for capital investments in irrigation that require high initial costs, as well as promoting lower cost irrigation systems using gravity-fed and solar technology.

Policy Note written by Chiyembekezo Chafuwa, 2017

Click here to read and download the full Policy Note (PDF 624 KB)