Where We Work Malawi
Malawi, a small country in Southern Africa, has the fourth highest percentage of people living in extreme poverty in the world. In Malawi, more than two-thirds of the population lives in extreme poverty, almost all of whom rely on small-scale farming for their livelihoods. Malawi’s economy is strongly dependent on tobacco, which accounts for 69.5% of Malawi’s total exports—a fact that is increasingly problematic for Malawian families given the declining global demand for tobacco products. In addition, Malawi has one of the youngest populations in the world, with 43% of people under the age of 15. For Malawians, agricultural development and diversification are urgent priorities to protect and improve their livelihoods and their children’s futures.
Malawi by the Numbers
- 18.6M total population
- 83% of the population lives in rural areas, and 72% of the workforce is employed in agriculture
- 70% of people live on less than $1.90/day
- 34% of people have an account at a financial institution
- 80% of children complete primary education
Opportunity in Malawi
With so many families in Malawi reliant upon agriculture for their livelihoods, Opportunity equips farmers with the tools and knowledge they need to diversify their crops, increase their yields, and better support their families. Farmers in Malawi face countless challenges, including improving their agricultural inputs and practices, accessing markets, and increasing their incomes.
In response, Opportunity focuses on initiatives like:
- Helping farmers diversify their crops and lessen their dependence on growing tobacco.
Generations of Malawians have relied on growing tobacco because it has usually earned good returns. However, tobacco demand is drastically decreasing — which is good for global health, but inadvertently causing economic insecurity for Malawians. Opportunity works with farmers, providing them with agricultural loans and training them in financial literacy and agricultural best practices, so they can learn to transition to growing more secure, alternative crops.
- Connecting farmers to fair markets, buyers, and suppliers.
As farmers transition to alternative crops, they also need connections to good seed suppliers to grow higher-yielding varieties and to purchasers who will buy their crops for better prices. We train Farmer Support Agents and connect them with farmers. These agents help famers build relationships, connect with buyers and suppliers, and access advice to increase their incomes.
- Reaching the most marginalized people and equipping them with the skills and resources they need to build sustainable livelihoods.
In Malawi, Opportunity’s on-the-ground staff specifically focuses on reaching marginalized groups like refugees, hard-to-reach rural families, and women suffering from fistulas, all of whom have suffered from exclusion, usually due to cultural, geographic, or gender-based barriers. Opportunity has built programs that train these marginalized groups in financial literacy, digital literacy, and business planning so that they can take their first steps toward financial inclusion.
Florence Zulu is a farmer in Mchinji, Malawi, who has recently diversified her farm by growing more maize, groundnuts, and soybeans. Prior to working with Opportunity, she had never used a bank account and was always concerned about how to keep her earnings safe, especially given that her home was not very secure. She was concerned about her grandchildren’s safety in her home, as well as whether they would get a good education.
After opening her first bank account, Florence received an agricultural loan to purchase better seed and fertilizer, and she began attending trainings in her village. With her loan and improved agricultural knowledge, she’s been able to increase her yields and her income—some of which she has spent on metal sheets to improve the roof on her home. She’s also been able to help send her grandchildren to good schools so they can build important skills for their futures.