US Support Improving Lives In Malawi

With support from USAID, WFP is providing critical immediate and longer-term assistance to food-insecure Malawians.

The months before the start of World Food Program (WFP) emergency food assistance were especially tough for Timiji Paisoni, a farmer from Machinga district who is in her sixties, and is the main breadwinner for her household of seven other people. The United States, as one of the first and most generous donors to WFP’s emergency response, has helped to change the lives of Timiji and other Malawians like her.

“Our eating patterns changed,” Timiji says. “Some days we were going for a day without food. And the children would not go to school because they were so hungry.”

More than 2.86 million people are suffering from food insecurity in Malawi following devastating floods and prolonged dry spells in 2015. The global El Niño event has been making the current situation even worse, as its effects have delayed the onset of effective rains for planting, which will push back the 2016 harvest.

Food insecure households in Malawi have had to turn to the few moneymaking opportunities that exist, such as engaging in casual labour on others’ farms or selling non-food items. Until WFP food assistance began, many Malawians resorted to eating whatever they could afford and in some cases, seeds. There is concern that the erratic weather will diminish the harvest for what may be more than two consecutive years in a row.

To help people like Timiji, WFP is providing immediate food assistance in an almost nationwide response. Assistance is being provided both through the provision of food commodities, which are largely supported by contributions from USAID, as well as through cash based transfers with funding from other donors that are targeting areas where markets are still functioning to buy food.

“We’ve seen an improvement in the baby’s weight since she has been eating Super Cereal,” adds Timiji. Super Cereal is a fortified corn soya blend given to pregnant and nursing mothers and children under two to prevent malnutrition during this time of food shortage.

Alongside the emergency food assistance, WFP is working with partners to enhance communities’ ability to withstand the difficult lean season by supporting complementary resilience building initiatives. Food assistance supported by USAID and others gives people the energy they need to actively participate and benefit from opportunities like the establishment of community tree nurseries, building of wood-saving stoves and distribution of seeds to encourage crop diversification.

The tree nurseries for agroforestry are increasingly important in areas like Machinga district. Sapuleni Uladi, a female farmer in Machinga whose granddaughter helps maintain a community tree nursery, says that many trees in the area have been cut down, mainly for firewood.

“Since most trees have been cut down, if we do re-afforestation and have more trees, then I think we will also have enough rain,” she adds.

Sapuleni refers to a variety of effects that trees can have on the local climate, including improving soil moisture in agricultural areas, thereby helping produce higher yields.

Life-saving food assistance and complementary projects are made possible with continued support from USAID, UK Aid, Norway, ECHO, Iceland, Brazil, Italy and the Government of Malawi.