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CIFOR–ICRAF addresses local challenges and opportunities while providing solutions to global problems for forests, landscapes, people and the planet.

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Commercial opportunities for fruit in Malawi

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The objective of this project was to access commercial opportunities of Malawian fruit and fruit products domestically and internationally that can best benefit smallholder farmers. We identified major barriers to developing a successful fruit product industry in Malawi. ICRAF has many opportunities to leverage its core competencies to support niche fruit product opportunities. Our recommendations for ICRAF include pu rsuing new areas of research leveraging its training expertise in innovative ways and taking an active approach with limited implementation activities. ICRAF’s main goals in Malawi align with its organizational vision to improve the lives of smallholder farmers through poverty reduction assuring food security and promoting nutrition. ICRAF focuses its research on soil fertility improvement commercializing indigenous fruit processing enterprises increasing availability of fodder for livestock and sustainable land use. Malawi is one of the world’s poorest countries; 90% of the population is engaged in subsistence farming with maize as the staple crop. Smallholde r farmers are particularly vulnerable to threats of food insecurity due to the lack of crop diversification. There is an issue of landholding density: most families control less than .5 hectares of land. Malawi possesses fertile land with which it could produce all the fr uit it needs. However broad structural issues are prohibiting the development and success of the fruit product industry. The infrastructure is plagued by poor transport (e.g. ro ad conditions) and fresh fruit storage capability. There is lack of smallholder farmer expertise in sustainable propagation methods and business skills. Finally smallholder farms have difficulty obtaining the capital they need to start-up purchase inputs and equipment. While ICRAF may possess limited ability to help develop Malawi’s infrastructure there are targeted opportunities that exist to support initiatives to improve farmer education and expand access to capital. Most smallholders have limited understanding of obtaining capital and do not have the required collateral. Microfinance institutions provide a possible solution to offer loans to groups of smallholders and the largest institution (Malawi Rural Finance Company) is anxious to diversify its tobacco-heavy loan portfolio. ICRAF is in positi on to raise awareness among smallholders of MFI opportunities and train the MFI field workers on agricultural expertise.

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