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

C. C. Venton, J. Siedenburg, J. Faleiro

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


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.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherFood and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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