The funding will support a national programme to improve small farmers' access to seeds, fertilisers and pesticides to increase agricultural productivity, in addition to funding agricultural research to enhance crop yields and support adaptation to climate change.
Of the €2 million announced today:
€1.25 million will support Malawi's national programme to provide 1.6 million small farmers with subsidised seeds, fertilisers and pesticides to increase maize production, improve crop diversification and improve food security among vulnerable families.
€750,000 will fund three agricultural research centres based in Malawi, which form part of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). These centres harness cutting-edge science to boost yields and improve farming methods in developing countries.
Announcing the support, Minister Peter Power said: "This funding is in line with two key recommendations of Ireland's Hunger Taskforce Report: increasing the productivity of smallholder farmers in Africa and improving infant and maternal nutrition.
"Since the national agricultural programme was introduced in 2006 in response to the food crisis in Malawi, the number of people needing food aid has fallen from more than five million to fewer than 150,000. The improvements have transformed Malawi from a net importer to a net exporter of maize and contributed to rapid economic growth.
"Notwithstanding these very impressive achievements, more than 50% of the population still live below the poverty line. Without this national subsidy programme, the vast majority of small farmers would not be able to afford fertilizer or improved seed, so their yields would be low and their families would remain at risk of hunger.
"By supporting this highly-effective programme, Ireland is empowering small farmers to increase their yields and ultimately to improve their families' nutrition, health and education. At a time when more than one billion people in the world go to bed hungry each night, these proven and sustainable interventions are key to reducing this unacceptable toll of hunger and ill-health."
Addressing the funding of €750,000 for agricultural research, Minister Power, who opened the new Irish embassy in Malawi last year said: "Deploying top-level science to improve productivity and combat hunger has yielded impressive results in the developing world. We know that for every €1 invested in CGIAR agricultural research, some €9 worth of additional food has been produced. Without this research, up to 15 million more children would have suffered malnutrition in Africa.
"The funding I am announcing today will support research to provide high-quality, disease- free seeds to improve nutrition and Vitamin A intake, particularly among mothers and young children. It will also fund research in collaboration with the Malawi Meteorological Services to allow farmers to respond to the challenges posed by climate change, particularly drought. And it will support the expansion of the International Potato Centre in Malawi, whose research contributed to the introduction of blight-resistant Irish potatoes in Malawi.
"The fight against hunger is a cornerstone of Ireland's overseas aid programme. I am committed to devoting 20% of the Irish aid budget to hunger reduction. A key part of an effective response involves forming strategic partnerships which will enable communities in developing countries to help themselves in a sustainable way."
The €2 million announced today is in addition to €8.8 million provided to Malawi in 2009 through Irish Aid's ongoing programme of assistance to the country. Malawi is one of nine priority countries with whom Irish Aid has a long-term development partnership.
December 28, 2009
For further information visit www.irishaid.gov.ie or contact Fionnuala Quinlan, press officer, Irish Aid, Department of Foreign Affairs, on 087-9099975.
Notes for Editor
Irish Aid is the Government's programme for overseas development. It is a division of the Department of Foreign Affairs. For further information, visit www.irishaid.gov.ie
Malawi is a largely rural population which relies heavily on agriculture. Smallholder farmers contribute more than 70% of the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Over fifty percent of the national population lives below the poverty line.
In 2005/6, the Government of Malawi introduced the Farm Input Subsidy Programme in response to the food crisis which left almost 40% of the population in need of food aid. Ireland's contribution of €1.25 million will support its overall aim of improving agricultural productivity.
The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) is funded by Irish Aid. CGIAR is an international alliance of agricultural research centres which deploy top quality science for the benefit of the poor. Today's announcement brings Irish Aid's support to CGIAR in 2009 to more than €7 million. . For further information, see http://www.cgiar.org
Today's announcement of €750,000 will support three research centres in Malawi: the International Potato Centre; the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics and The World Agro-Forestry Centre. For further information, see http://www.cgiar.org