Despite agriculture being the backbone of Malawi, limited market opportunities exist for smallholder farmers. In 2014, only 4 percent of cropland (104,000 ha) was irrigated, and only about 3.3 percent of smallholders have access to irrigation. According to the Integrated Household Surveys (IHS) 2016, around 50% of farmers in the Southern region have less than 1 hectare of land.
Weak farmer organisation capacity, a fragmented land tenure system and lack of entrepreneurial mindset are key bottlenecks for farm investment and market-oriented agriculture. Additionally, evidence shows that smallholder farmers (SHF) in Malawi typically lose between 10-20% of maize produced during the post-harvest handling and storage phase. Based on maize production estimates for the 2020/21 season, up to 895,809 MT of maize – equivalent to 170 million USD or roughly 3% of 2021 GDP—could be lost due to improper storage along the maize value chain alone.