Skip to main content

Malawi country strategic plan (2019-2023)

Operation ID: MW01

CSP approved at EB.1/2019

Revision 01 approved by the CD in May 2019.

Revision 02 approved by the CD in April 2021.

Revision 03 approved by the CD in June 2022.

Revision 04 approved by the CD in June 2023.

Despite long-term positive trends, Malawi continues to face development challenges that constrain its capacity to achieve food and nutrition security. They include the persistent need for food assistance in the lean season, often exacerbated by climate-related shocks, environmental degradation and over-reliance on rain-fed agriculture; economic underperformance; high levels of extreme poverty; endemic gender inequalities; and a long-standing refugee caseload. Such challenges are widely acknowledged and well described in many policies informed by a national consensus among government and development partners that there is a need to break the cycle of hunger by applying a medium to long-term resilience approach, as expressed in the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy III (2017–2022).

However, limited public and private sector implementation capacity is impeding Malawi’s policy aspirations and progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. The initial findings of the Government-led independent Malawi zero hunger and malnutrition strategic review, conducted by International Food Policy Research Institute and supported by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the United Nations Resident Coordinator’s Office for Malawi and WFP, indicate several priorities critical to achieving Strategic Development Goal 2:

  • Sustaining the positive nutrition trends of recent years;
  • Improving institutional coordination for Sustainable Development Goal 2;
  • Looking beyond agriculture for food security;
  • Moving from subsistence to surplus agriculture; 
  • Scaling up shock-responsive, nutrition-sensitive social protection;
  • Making structural changes to the economy; and
  • Bridging the gender gap.

Having played a key role in forging the consensus regarding resilience, WFP is well placed to help Malawi make progress on these critical priorities and to support policy implementation, harnessing its comparative advantage with government and other partners across the humanitarian–development nexus. The Government and its partners recognize the strong results that WFP has achieved in nutrition-sensitive programming,2 in advancing innovations that link humanitarian assistance, resilience and social protection and in implementing and scaling up a package of integrated resilience-building activities with Government and partners.3

WFP believes that between now and 2030 this approach can be scaled up further with the Government and partners to establish a path out of the poverty trap for food-insecure vulnerable populations and the very poor. Accordingly, this country strategic plan is a five-year strategy to help Malawi better coordinate national efforts to tackle hunger, improve nutrition and reduce vulnerability to food insecurity and malnutrition – particularly that related to gender and age – and to strengthen resilience to recurrent shocks. Aligned with WFP’s Strategic Plan, it contributes to Sustainable Development Goals 2 and 17 and to WFP Strategic Results 1, 2, 3 and 5 through five fully integrated strategic outcomes that seek to improve the resilience of affected populations sustainably in support of national efforts to achieve zero hunger.

Strategic outcome 1 focuses on crisis response and refugees and is deeply connected to the resilience-building work of the remaining four outcomes: evidence generation and scale-up of shock-responsive social protection (strategic outcome 2); nutrition-sensitive programming addressing malnutrition (strategic outcome 3); a sustainable food systems approach to supporting smallholders, especially women (strategic outcome 4); and supply chain and service provision activities to build public and private sector capacity to respond to emergencies (strategic outcome 5, in Sustainable Development Goal 17). The country strategic plan also seeks to mainstream protection and accountability to affected populations, HIV/AIDS, environmental and social safeguards and gender equality and women’s empowerment, with the latter pursued beyond "business as usual" and leveraging gender-transformative approaches.4

This cohesive approach is captured in strategic outcomes 1 and 2, which together constitute an integrated shock-responsive hunger safety net: WFP will work with the Government to build its capacity to respond to acute and structural food insecurity, adding productive asset creation when appropriate. Through building the recovery capacity of smallholders, first through complementary productive assets as part of a crisis response, then through asset creation and access to insurance, savings, credit, climate services and markets, WFP will lay the groundwork for its own phased

withdrawal from direct operations and its transition to providing technical assistance and capacity-strengthening support.

The country strategic plan has been developed following the response to the El Niño caused 2016–2017 food insecurity emergency and is informed by lessons learned, evaluations, national policy priorities, the zero hunger and malnutrition strategic review and extensive consultations with the Government, development partners, non-governmental organizations and other key actors. Responding to the Government’s commitment to ownership of hunger solutions, it represents a shift in approach that will gradually move WFP away from direct implementation to capacity strengthening. WFP will assist the Government in implementing its own policies, together with development partners and the private sector, while maintaining its capacity to respond to humanitarian crises.

The country office has experienced teams able to implement activities to achieve the strategic outcomes. WFP also acknowledges the integral role of its partners in augmenting its capacity. Malawi is a One United Nations country, and the Government enjoys the support of a cohesive United Nations country team. WFP will deepen its partnerships with other United Nations agencies, especially the United Nations Children's Fund, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women and the other Rome-based agencies. With the new United Nations development assistance framework for Malawi, which covers the period 2019–2023, and the country strategic plan informed by the zero hunger and malnutrition strategic review, WFP is well placed to contribute to national discussions about the successor to Malawi’s Vision 2020 and its long-term strategic vision 2050.

As noted in the zero hunger and malnutrition strategic review, Malawi’s long-term food security and nutritional well-being is challenged by the continued dominance of subsistence farming, particularly given the growing population and limited land base. Strategies are needed to attract investment in resilient food systems. With strategic outcome 5, WFP will contribute to sustainable development goal 17, working with partners to facilitate stronger links with the private sector along the value chain, through activities that equitably enable commercial smallholders to expand production, gain access to markets and boost economic growth.

In 2007, Malawi was a net maize exporter and was selling more maize to WFP than any other country in southern Africa.5 In 2019, Malawi will have just eleven years left to achieve its sustainable development goal commitments. This country strategic plan sets out a path to zero hunger, with shock-response and resilience strategies and programmes that over time will be increasingly taken over by the Government. These approaches will be scaled up over the next country strategic plan, expected to run from 2024 to 2028, putting Malawi on a sustainable path to food and nutrition security and leaving WFP, by 2030, focused on providing technical assistance to well-resourced and well-coordinated national programmes.