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Country analysis > Malawi Last update: 2020-11-27  

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Malawi Baseline Survey - September 2003

Executive Summary

C-SAFE is a jointly planned and implemented response by World Vision, CARE and CRS to the current food security problems plaguing the three southern Africa countries of Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe, with World Vision serving as the lead. The C-SAFE Consortium represents the most significant collaborative initiative to date (both in scale and profile) embarked upon by these three largest American PVOs. The program itself is unique, in that it is neither exclusively emergency nor development oriented. Instead, C-SAFE works along the entire relief to development continuum, addressing the immediate nutritional needs of targeted vulnerable groups; as well as building productive assets and working with communities to increase their resilience to future food security shocks.

The development of the baseline survey began in March 2003. The baseline survey collected data on all outcome indicators listed in the M&E plan, as well as others, anticipating the need to measure the outcomes from future activities planned for Years 2 and 3. The main objectives of the baseline survey were 1) to establish baseline values of logframe indicators against which future measurements of goal-related changes (e.g., practices and/or systemic changes) can be made and 2) to increase understanding of livelihood security factors impacting the lives of rural households. Other secondary objectives were 1) to identify groups and geographic areas where food and livelihood security may be low and 2) to gather and analyze information that will assist project staff in designing or modifying appropriate interventions or generate information for further refining the project logframe.

Six survey zones were delineated based on a modification of food economy zones. Each zone represented areas where C-SAFE is currently operational and will be operational in years two and three.

The Malawi survey includes a final sample on a total of 2030 households. Nearly 30% of households are headed by a female member. The percentage of female-headed households is significantly higher in the southern region and highest in the Shire Highlands. The Middle Shire zone also has a very high percentage of female-headed households. The lowest percentage of female-headed households was found in the Kasungu/Lilongwe survey zone in the central region of Malawi.

The survey included 6,903 children and youth up to the age of 18 years old. Of this total, 1,505 are orphans, or 21%. In all, 8.6% of all children less than 18 years of age included in the study are orphans with one parent deceased and the other living in the household. Another 424 children (6.1%) are orphans with one parent deceased and the other living outside of the household. Just over 7% of the survey population of children under 18 is a double orphan.

Some specific results of the survey were as follows:

  1. Rural households have very few assets. In this survey, about 80% of households were classified as asset poor or very poor. Households with limited assets are vulnerable, not only because of their relative poverty, but also because they have few items to divest should they be forced to spend money on food or emergencies.

  2. The percentage of vulnerable households in the C-SAFE project areas is very high. Sixty percent of households surveyed fall into one or more vulnerability categories. Almost one-third of rural households surveyed are hosting at least one orphan, and almost 12.5% of households are hosting double orphans. Female-headed households bear much of the burden in caring for orphans, with almost half of their households hosting at least one orphan child.

  3. Chronically ill individuals were present in 30% of households surveyed, and only a small but significant difference exists between the percentage of chronically ill found in male versus female-headed households. Chronic illness is having a severe impact on household food security. Although they have, on average, access to more land they have the largest gap between what they have access to and what they cultivate. This signals a labor shortage in these households, and more land is left fallow.

  4. Deaths rates in chronically ill households are higher, and the data reconfirms the notion that chronic illnesses are not diseases of the "poor." Only small and statistically non-significant differences are found among the four asset categories.

  5. Dependency ratios are very high, about 20% higher than the classical dependency ratios and much higher when compared to international norms. The overall mean dependency ratio is 174.6, reflecting the large number of dependents with respect to workers in rural Malawian households.

  6. Over 10% of school-aged children have dropped out of school and dropout rates are significantly higher for orphans.

  7. Female-headed households, high dependency households, and asset very poor households all averaged less than 230 kgs of cereal production. This is more than 65% less than the production of cereals by male-headed households and is a direct contributor to the high vulnerability of these households, especially given their other options for generating income to pay for food and other basic needs.

  8. The most commonly sold cereal crop was sorghum, with just over 11% of households growing sorghum engaged in sales.

  9. Households in rural Malawi are very food insecure. Households in general expect that the current harvest will be about one-half of what they normally obtain through cropping activities. This trend is similar for every household type analyzed, and demonstrates that food security problems in Malawi are widespread and impact on many livelihoods.

  10. Almost 40% of asset poor households spend 75% or more of their household income on food, which leaves little to spend on other items such as health care, school fees, etc.

  11. The majority of households have relied very importantly on food aid to provide for part of their food requirements, and food aid is an important source of calories for many rural Malawi households. One-half of surveyed households have relied on food aid for meeting part of their nutritional needs, and the majority have received these benefits through general feeding. Targeting of vulnerable households through other food aid programs may need refining.

  12. There were large and significant differences in protein consumption among the four asset categories, with asset poor households consuming significantly less protein in all four categories. Consumption was highest in asset rich households, with the exception of egg consumption which was highest in asset intermediate households.

  13. During the previous year, almost one in five households experienced at least one death, and the average age of death was 23 years old. In over half of all deaths the individual was ill for more than three months.

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