Malawi’s Land Laws and Agricultural Commercialization: Recommendations from a Land Symposium


August 4, 2017 - <> and Athur Mabiso

Flora Janet Nankhuni and Athur Mabiso. 2017. Malawi’s Land Laws and Agricultural Commercialization: Recommendations from a Land Symposium. Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Food Security Policy Research Brief 45. East Lansing: Michigan State University


1) There is an alarming and increasing rate of soil loss in Malawi due to land degradation;

2) Implementation of policies does not always use available research evidence, as demonstrated by the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (FISP) that provides farm inputs for maize production in areas that are unsuitable for growing maize. This emphasizes the need to use research evidence in planning and implementing government programmes. It also highlights the importance of updating the land profiling exercise, since the current crop suitability maps are based on data collected in 1988-91. There is also need to recommend the right fertilizer formulations for different geographic areas of Malawi, based on the results of soil testing and mapping as opposed to using the blanket fertilizer recommendation that MoAIWD has followed for many years, with limited agricultural productivity as a result;

3) The MoLHUD realized that it needs to include regulation of farm land rental transactions in their tenant-landlord bill/Act, based on research results from LUANAR, Purdue University, CIMMYT, NAPAS: Malawi, and Government of Malawi;

4) MITC, LandNet and stakeholders recommended that the best model of land acquisition for large-scale agricultural investments should make communities that own land become shareholders. This also came out in the discussion on land acquisition by investors, who pointed to a past lack of political leadership to guide land acquisition. In the case of Malawi Mangoes, the company lost millions of dollars and is now not employing any one when it could be employing about 2,000 people if land acquisition process had gone smoothly. In contrast, Mtalimanja Holdings Limited had a good experience of land acquisition where the company offered 30 percent of its shares to previous land owners. The discussion also pointed to the need for effective community leaders, such as Chief Mbenje, to guide communities in negotiating for better terms with agriculture investors that are looking for land.

5) Stakeholders agreed that research on land could be carried out on these topics:

     a. Impacts of the rise of medium-scale farmers on productivity, employment, food security, etc.
     b. Welfare impacts (food security, employment, etc.) of land acquisitions and land rental markets.
     c. Land equity impacts and responsible land investments.
     d. Financing of land transactions/investments.

6) Despite the presentations by MoLHUD, MITC, Greenbelt Holdings, and LandNet some stakeholders were still unsure of the exact process of land acquisition for agricultural investments in Malawi—as shown by results of the digital voting:
• 97 percent disagreed that valuation of land and compensation assessment processes in Malawi are clear; and actual land values and competitive land rental rates are known by all stakeholders.
• 91 percent disagreed that Malawi’s finance policies are aligned to the new changes in land laws and the move to agricultural commercialization.
• 88 percent disagreed that under the new land laws, is it clear how much money should be paid and to whom when acquiring land for commercial agricultural investment.
• 70 percent disagreed that in the new land laws, the role of land tribunals is clear in terms of land acquisition for investments in commercial agriculture.

See the program and presentations from the symposium



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