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Sustaining healthy food systems

Nourishing food on every plate, one community, one family through youth education as a tool to reach out and increase technology adoption

Photo of Bettie  Kawonga
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Written by

Lead Applicant Organization Name

Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR)

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Researcher Institution

Website of Legally Registered Entity

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 1-3 years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?


Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?


Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

Central Region covers an area 500km

What country is your selected Place located in?


Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

This place is in close proximity to our Institutions (LUANAR and Department of Agricultural Research). The communities are currently searching for an alternative source of livelihood to move away from Tobacco production. Land in this area is degraded due to over 50 years of monocropping

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

Central Region in Malawi is dominated by Chichewa speaking natives who are traditionally crop farmers mostly growing cash crops such as tobacco, groundnuts, and soya beans on Lilongwe-Kasungu plains. People of Central region practice unique culture of known locally as Gule wamkulu (masked man). The cultural practice instills core values of discipline, hardwork, respect and integrity. Culturally, communities have patrilineal marriage arrangements. Agriculture especially growing of tobacco and groundnuts dominate the rural economy. For many decades tobacco, soya beans, groundnuts have performed well on the central region plains. Central region crops especially tobacco contributed approximately 60% of Malawi's gross domestic product for almost five decades creating one of the most vibrant communities in Malawi through job creation.

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?


Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

Agriculture especially growing of tobacco and groundnuts as monocrops has for centuries formed a back-borne of Central region rural economy. However, changes in government policies on tobacco production coupled increased aflatoxin contamination of groundnuts associated with climate change has rendered these rather thriving communities helpless with no viable alternatives in sight. With decades of monocropping and use of synthetic fertilizer in tobacco, soils are degraded and are failing to support other crops such as maize, a staple food in Malawi. Additionally, with erosion of their financial resources over time due to dwindling economic benefits of farming tobacco and groundnuts, central region communities are more vulnerable than other communities in Malawi. The communities and families abilities to purchase various food items to achieve food and nutritional security is threatened. Most families increasingly consume carbohydrate based diets with minimal proteins leading to increased cases of stunting among children with consequences on cognitive development and health.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

The people of Central region in Malawi seek sustainable solutions to their complex challenges. Solutions such as sustainable land use to move away from monoculture to regenerative Agriculture with increased use of organic matter to reduce soil erosion, conserve water and promote biodiversity could help reduce the current negative trends. Youth who are in majority (60%) offer an opportunity through youth education (can use existing cultural structure) as a tool to reach out to older generations to increase adoption of new technologies and accelerate development

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

An empowered thriving community and well nourished and health families proactively participating in development and taking responsibility of increasing incomes for their communities through increased investment in sustainable agriculture

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

Nourishing food on every plate, one community, one family vision through increased adoption of regenerative Agriculture implemented through education in a public private partnerships will contribute to sustainable use of limited resources and regeneration of soils and biodiversity and will create a thriving and healthy community capable of once again creating job opportunities for generations to come.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Website

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Cortney Ahern

Hi Bettie Kawonga welcome to the Food System Vision Prize Community!
Thank you for submitting your vision for a healthy food system in the Central region of Malawi. It's clear you are looking ahead to the future to imagine a food system that moves away from monocultures and synthetic fertilizers.

Some questions that might help to strengthen your vision:
- How might your work today look in 2050 if you were to upset the current trends and build this new trajectory for the future? How might that inspire others around you to collaborate?
- What other stakeholders does your vision include, aside from youth and Chichewa speaking people?
- You've clearly focused on systemic factors of environment, economy, and culture. How does your vision connect with healthy diets, policy and technology?

I wanted to make sure that you have seen our Food Vision Prize Toolkit with a lot of information, activities, and guidelines. The Toolkit can help you refine your Vision and make it more systemic, human-centred and well informed for the future. Here is the link to the Prize Toolkit:

Look forward to seeing your Vision evolve through the coming weeks.