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Country Highlights

Malawi: Climate Change Impact on Agricultural Sector

The impact of climate change on Malawi’s agricultural sector is significant, with adverse effects expected to be substantial. Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) considerations reflect an ambition to improve the integration of agriculture development and climate responsiveness. The country’s vulnerability to climate change is evident in the potential reduction of the area suitable for agricultural production, particularly in the southern region, due to more dry days per year and reduced rainfall, leading to detrimental effects on the agricultural sector. The International Model for Policy Analysis of Agricultural Commodities and Trade (IMPACT) has been used to analyze the effects of climate change on agriculture in Malawi, indicating that the country will likely become more dependent on imports of food commodities, particularly maize, rice, groundnut meal, soybean meal, beans, and potato. The impact of climate change is also expected to reduce potato, groundnut, and maize imports, highlighting the potential economic impacts of climate change on the country’s agricultural sector.

Studies have shown that higher temperatures will shorten the maize growing season, capture less solar radiation, and result in decreased crop productivity, particularly for maize, which is the most important crop for food security in Malawi. Adverse effects of climate change on agriculture in Malawi are expected to be significant, and measures to increase soil fertility and moisture must be developed to build resilience into the country’s agricultural practices. The risks to adverse effects of climate change are expected to be greatest in Least Developed Countries (LDCs), making it crucial to address the potential impacts on food security and agricultural productivity in Malawi.

The economic impact of climate change on Malawian agriculture has been measured using the theory of Ricardian rents, indicating that climate change poses a great threat to the country’s agriculture sector, forestry, and rural livelihoods. The agriculture sector has always been an important component of Malawi’s economy, and the dependence on rain-fed agriculture makes the country particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Climate change is expected to have agronomic impacts on crop yields and generate economic effects, with systems that do not adapt facing increasing economic losses over time. This highlights the urgent need to better understand and quantify the impacts of climate change on Malawi’s agricultural sector to enable the development of practical means for enhancing resilience and adaptation.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has emphasized that Malawi’s agriculturally-based economy is particularly susceptible to climate change’s negative impacts, with temperature increases and changing precipitation patterns already harming agricultural growth. The changing precipitation patterns are expected to cause more erratic and concentrated rainfall, leading to further crop damage and reduced food supply. To address these challenges, USAID partners with the Government of Malawi and various institutions to promote climate-resilient development and combat deforestation, while also supporting livelihood opportunities for vulnerable households[4].

The impact of climate change on Malawi’s agricultural sector is expected to be significant, with adverse effects on crop productivity, food security, and rural livelihoods. The country’s vulnerability to climate change, particularly in the context of its dependence on rain-fed agriculture, underscores the urgent need for measures to enhance resilience, soil fertility, and moisture, as well as the development of practical adaptation strategies. Collaboration between the government, international organizations, and local institutions is essential to minimize the adverse effects of climate change on the country’s agricultural sector and rural communities.

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Featured Reports

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