Defining and building resilience in Malawi: how Compact2025 can help

On October 31, 2017, the International Food Policy Research Institute will host the 2017 Compact2025 Forum, “Moving from Relief to Resilience: Achieving Sustainable Food Security for Malawi” at the Bingu International Conference Center in Lilongwe.

In August, the Government of Malawi published the National Resilience Plan, to be followed by the forthcoming National Resilience Strategy. The Plan and Strategy are contextualized by the increasing frequency, impact and cost of disasters in Malawi, as well as the reality that humanitarian relief efforts require valuable resources that could be used for longer-term development projects.

For many attendees, the word resilience will feel very familiar. But what exactly do we mean when we say “resilient,” and what does it mean in the context of agriculture and food policy? Furthermore, how can resilience be strategically built in Malawi?

According to the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, resilience is, “the ability of a system, community or society exposed to hazards to resist, absorb, accommodate, adapt to, transform and recover from the effects of a hazard in a timely and efficient manner.” More informally, resilience is the ability of households and communities to bounce back after a shock. In the context of Malawi, shocks such as floods, droughts, and extreme weather events are increasingly common and expected to worsen with a changing climate.

The upcoming Compact2025 Forum on “Moving from Relief to Resilience” will address the issues and challenges that Malawi faces in moving towards resilience in all spheres of development. Right Honorable Dr. Saulos Chalima, Vice President of Malawi, will deliver a keynote address during the Forum. The forum will discuss possible solutions through a panel discussion on, “Multi-Sectoral Approach for Resilient Food Systems.” Panelists from the Department of Disaster Management Affairs, the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Irrigation Development, the Department of Nutrition, HIV and AIDS, the Department of Forestry, and the private sector will speak to resilience building strategies in the realms of agriculture, food security, natural resource management, social protection, and early warning systems.

In a forthcoming assessment of last year’s Food Insecurity Response Plan (FIRP), IFPRI identified necessary components of a strategic framework to move from relief-oriented responses to hazards towards the development of a resilient food system in Malawi.  Lessons learned from the FIRP review in the context of implementing the National Resilience Strategy will be presented and discussed.

The event will also build on recommendations resulting from the May 2016 Malawi Roundtable Discussion. Among those were the following:

  • Strengthen capacity at all levels, particularly in research, analysis, monitoring, and evaluation, as well as integrating nutrition education into implementation efforts across disciplines.
  • “Break the cycle” with holistic, transparent, and market-driven approaches, notably national and sub-national early warning systems, collection and analysis of agricultural production data and nutrition indicators, and reforming agricultural policies.
  • Improve accountability and coordination, particularly at the district and community levels and through innovative feedback mechanisms between levels.
  • Fine-tune and implement nutrition-driven policies, and increase efficiency through the use of a united beneficiary registry and advanced technologies for service delivery to reduce leakages.
  • Fill data, indicator, and knowledge gaps by emphasizing more sex-disaggregated and district specific data, data on individual or household food consumption, vulnerability mappings, and rigorous impact evaluations to determine the most effective and efficient social safety net transfer modalities for the country.

For more information on this year's event, please see the attached agenda and concept note or contact us at

Dr. Shenggen Fan, Director General, IFPRI (left) and Right Honorable Dr. Saulos Chilima, Vice President of Malawi (middle) at Compact2025 in 2016.

"Building a resilient agriculture and food system is crucial for sustainably ending hunger and malnutrition by 2025. It breaks the cycle of chronic food insecurity in Malawi," said Dr. Shenggen Fan, Director General of IFPRI.