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Food Shortages in the Republic of Malawi Research Paper

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Updated: Jul 4th, 2020

Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world. It lags behind in terms of development and civilization, with 85% of its citizen’s still living in rural areas. It suffices to mention that the country is tiny, with a third of it being covered by the waters of Lake Malawi. The economy has been steadily improving, but there have been numerous challenges that have been faced. Famine and food shortage have been some of the key challenges for the Malawian government. There are various reasons that have been cited for the food shortage in the country. This essay discusses the history of food shortages in Malawi. It also explains the reasons that have been given for the shortage and the suggestions presented to help the situation. The essay proves that poor planning by the government has enhanced food insecurity in Malawi.

History of food shortages in Malawi

Malawi is the seventeenth poorest country in the world. Half of the country’s 16 million citizens live under the poverty line. About 90% of the remaining half live on US $2 per day, which is also very little. In numerous cases, they eat one or at most two meals per day. The deplorable economy has seen 46,000 children severely malnourished.

Malawi has recorded food crisis periods since time immemorial. In the historical timeline, the problem escalated in 1990 when a drought in the sub-Saharan Africa reduced maize production in the country immensely. It would appear that the country has never been able to recover. The first major famine in the country was registered in 2002. The famine led to the death of approximately 3,000 people, who succumbed to starvation. The government announced a state of emergency that year due to the food crisis. The government also sought help from donor organizations. The next harvest also helped the country reduce the impact of the famine.

However, three years later, the country faced another food crisis. The food crisis was initiated by a drought, which destroyed food crops and the little food that was available became very expensive. The government had to declare another national disaster and asked for help from developed countries. It is interesting to note that the country is dealing with another food shortage at the moment.

It suffices to mention that food shortage in the country has always been elevated by donor organizations and seasonal harvests. Maize is the main food crop in the country; thus, many of the farmers in the area focus on planting maize or cash crops.

Reasons for food shortage

The first reason given for the food crisis in Malawi is the focus on cash crops and not food crops. The main crops grown in the region are cotton, tobacco, and tea. It is true that there are some regions where maize, potatoes, and sugarcane are grown. An analysis of the population and the growth of food crops, however, show that there is a food deficit. The government should urge people to plant food crops.

In addition, the increasing population has made the situation worse. Research in the region reveals that the population does not use contraceptives. This has been attributed to the cultural influences that grip the nation. It is up to the government to monitor the population increase and come up with ways of reducing it.

The few agricultural activities have also added to the food shortage. Many of the able citizens have taken up arms and joined the military, with encouragement from the government. Very few are interested in agriculture or any other economic occupation. Farming is left to the elderly, who are not keen on the best practices for agriculture. The government has also failed to be keen on educating the farmers on how to tap into the agricultural sector more. Thus, many farmers have problems selecting the best seeds for planting and dealing with diseases.

In the same breath, the government and the private sector have failed to provide better seeds for planting to the farmers. High yields start with good seeds. Currently, there are seedlings that do better than others, especially with reference to adaptation and resistance to disease. The government has not invested enough in providing better seeds; thus, the farmers are left to use poor quality seeds that give fewer yields, thereby creating a food shortage.

The world market has also created a dent in the Malawian economy. As mentioned, the country focuses on cash crops. These crops are exported to different countries. However, prices are affected due to one reason or another. For the longest time, the price of tobacco has been going down. Malawi heavily depends on tobacco export. Thus, its economy has suffered immensely. Moreover, the farmers who have focused on tobacco cultivation get paid less, leading to massive poverty. The international community appears to keep off tobacco due to the health risks it is associated with. Tea, coffee, and sugarcane farming are also very common in the country.

The two products are used for exportation. Together with tobacco, the four cash crops make 90% of export products from Malawi. It has been realized that the cultivation of these crops is very expensive compared to the cultivation of other crops, which lowers the profits made from selling these products.

Natural disasters and poor ways of dealing with the disasters have also had a negative impact on the country’s economy. In many instances, it is the famine that leads to food shortage. However, there are cases where floods destroy farms and the crops in them. The government does not have a stable and effective way of dealing with the floods and the droughts. One would expect that the government buys bulk products and puts them into a national storage in the case of such disasters. However, corruption and greed have made this impossible. Whereas there is a small national reserve for food, political leaders gamble on how to manage the reserve best.

Failure to embrace technology and industrialization has also led to the decline of the Malawian economy, leading to the lack of food. As mentioned, a majority of the population in Malawi lives in the rural areas. They rely on communist concepts, where one neighbor helps the other out whenever there is a need. They are not motivated to make a profit; thus, they remain poor.

Many of the farmers are elderly; thus, they do not want to change farming practices. They believe that the practices their forefathers used were sufficient. This could not be further from the truth. Times have changed, and diseases have become resistant to the traditional ways of dealing with them.

Suggestions on dealing with the problem

One of the suggestions given in dealing with the problem of food shortage in Malawi is the creation of a bigger national reserve tank. The reserve tank can be filled during the harvest period and used during a famine. It is also prudent for the government to have a tight leash on the management of the reserve. Those put in charge should be accountable to ensure that the food in stock can suffice the whole nation. It should also be affordable.

Another suggestion that has been given is encouraging the production of food crops. Farmers should be advised to spare part of their land and dedicate it to food crop farming; crops that they can both sell to their neighbors and consume in their homes. In the same breath, the government should take enough time to train farmers in several and current best practices for the types of crops they cultivate.


The data was collected from secondary sources. The researchers used books, and, credible and academic, Internet sources to from their points. However, the researchers decided to add data collected from primary sources due to the need for further research on the topic. The researchers will draft a survey to get more personal experiences. The survey will target people who have been to Malawi and record their experiences. It will be conducted in the form of questionnaires, which will be distributed among a chosen number of participants.


In conclusion, the food crisis experienced in Malawi is mainly due to the government’s failure to plan adequately. The government is responsible for ensuring that the food reserve is big enough to serve the whole country in the case of a disaster. In addition, the government should take it upon itself to teach the farmer the best practice in order to ensure high-quality crops. In turn, the economy of the country can be boosted, and the food crisis menace evaded.

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"Food Shortages in the Republic of Malawi." IvyPanda, 4 July 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/food-shortages-in-the-republic-of-malawi/.

1. IvyPanda. "Food Shortages in the Republic of Malawi." July 4, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/food-shortages-in-the-republic-of-malawi/.


IvyPanda. "Food Shortages in the Republic of Malawi." July 4, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/food-shortages-in-the-republic-of-malawi/.


IvyPanda. 2020. "Food Shortages in the Republic of Malawi." July 4, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/food-shortages-in-the-republic-of-malawi/.


IvyPanda. (2020) 'Food Shortages in the Republic of Malawi'. 4 July.

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