Investing in communities: the benefits and costs of building resilience for food security in Malawi

Investing in communities: the benefits and costs of building resilience for food security in Malawi

Investing in disaster risk reduction activities in Malawi

This study presents a community-based cost benefit analysis of a disaster risk reduction (DRR) and food security programme in a Malawian agricultural community.

The paper firstly states that drought has had serious impacts in the study area, creating a vicious circle of food insecurity, asset depletion, environmental degradation and vulnerability to shocks. In sharp contrast, the programme has delivered profound benefits to the communities, contributing to a “virtuous circle” of food security, asset building, environmental restoration and climate resilience.

The study finds that the programme had a highly positive impact on target communities in terms of household income and assets, education, health and reduced mortality rates. Furthermore, the positive financial return on investment provides a powerful argument for investing in preventative activities in vulnerable small-scale agricultural communities.

The authors conclude that an effective and well-targeted local programme can deliver profound benefits for a specific community. Yet, further progress towards achieving greater food security requires strong policy frameworks at a national level, coordinated across government ministries. This, furthermore, should be coupled with decentralisation of budgets and decision-making to district and local levels and effective partnerships between the government and civil society. Moreover, the paper suggests that governments, donors, UN agencies and NGOs should:

  • increase investment in reducing the risks of severe food insecurity and preventing food crises
  • invest a minimum of 10% of humanitarian aid budgets to support context-specific activities and increase people’s asset base, livelihood security and preparedness for drought
  • promote strong linkages and coherence between climate change adaptation, DRR, poverty reduction and national sustainable development plans
  • support effective partnership between civil society and government at local and national levels, to increase transparency and accountability of resources for intended beneficiaries.
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