Malawian woman standing at a market.

Regional Supply Chains and the Food Economy of Malawi


January 8, 2018 - Author: Stephanie White, Jessica Kampanje-Phiri, Michael W. Hamm, Kurt Richter, Carolyn Phiri

This brief provides an overview of a unique data set that begins to systematically examine the regional supply chain in Lilongwe, Malawi. Sometimes referred to as ‘informal’ or ‘traditional,’ the regional food sector is critical to rural and urban food security and is a common and important source of income for men and women along the value chain and throughout the country. It will remain important to urban/rural food security and livelihood for decades.

Over the past thirty years, the primary focus for support in African regional food systems has been on smallholder production. Much of that support has been oriented towards improving the production capacity of farmers and their ability to participate in a globalized system of trade.Though the well-being of farmers is tightly linked with the fortunes of other regional food system actors, there has been surprisingly little research that examines how interventions and investments might be carried out and coordinated to support integrated development of the regional food economy and this regional supply chain. The analysis presented in this brief is a step forward in addressing that need.

Our analysis suggests several different areas of needed research and engagement:

  • Retailers organize practices that respond to system conditions. More precisely understanding how retailers respond to and manage difficult conditions can help to identify and address those underlying conditions – e.g. appropriate and secure market storage.
  • There are a few major hubs for retailer food sourcing outside of Lilongwe, and many smaller hubs and minor sources that might be further developed through targeted investment to reduce vulnerability to food insecurity.
  • Gender influences development outcomes. Applying a gender lens to supply chain analysis will reveal differential experiences and inform varied strategies to address constraints and promote opportunities.
  • Exploring consumer shopping habits, needs, and constraints coupled to emerging demographic trends will provide policy and investment strategies to improve urban food security in an increasingly urban environment.




Accessibility Questions:

For questions about accessibility and/or if you need additional accommodations for a specific document, please send an email to ANR Communications & Marketing at