Supporting Irrigation for Food Security in Malawi

Publication date: 15 June 2011
Author: Kate Kilpatrick

Malawi is a country of small-scale producers farming tiny plots of land. Traditionally, they grow maize and other crops using rainwater. But as climate change intensifies, rains in Malawi are becoming erratic and less predictable.

Malawi has abundant freshwater resources. Thirteen perennial rivers and three lakes cover almost 20 per cent of the area of Malawi. Despite this, only a small proportion of agricultural land is irrigated.

Improving smallholder agriculture is a major focus of Oxfam’s program in Malawi. This case study describes how Oxfam has supported the development of community-based irrigation systems in support of greater productivity and food security. Through year-round access to water, farmers have been supported to intensify cropping, implement better soil management techniques, and diversify their production to include tomatoes for sale to a local canning factory. The resulting income benefits have enabled participants to make investments in their homes and businesses, and supported access to education and healthcare.