PMIL in Malawi

PMIL researchers in Malawi and the U.S., are working together to study the effects of pre- and post-harvest interventions in increasing peanut productivity and reducing aflatoxin contamination. Interventions being evaluated include planting and harvest dates and better row/plant spacing, improved disease and pest management, and several drying and storage options.

Researchers are also examining the levels of aflatoxin and microbial contamination in locally produced peanut products, an area of high concern for both local and international markets.

Trainings for local producers, often women, aim to lower contamination levels and support the production of peanut products at much higher quality and food safety standards.

Efforts to strengthen local seed systems are also being made in Malawi, as well as in the neighboring countries of Zambia and Mozambique. They include strengthening information management systems and supporting appropriate facilities.

About Malawi

Malawi is a landlocked country in southeastern Africa about the size of Pennsylvania. English is the official language, but the language of Chichewa is also recognized nationally. Malawi gained its independence from the UK in 1964.


About 16 million people live in Malawi. Malnutrition contributes to child stunting across the country, affecting almost half of the children under the age of 5.

Sixty-one percent of adults are literate compared to the sub-Saharan Africa average of 70%. Poverty rates are high, with 50% of the population under the national poverty line.


The sub-tropical climate includes a rainy season from November-April and a dry season from May-October. While some places in September-April may reach 29° C (84.2° F), the rest of the country averages at 25° C (77° F). Temperature lows are around 10–14° C (50.0–57.2° F).

The yearly rainfall average is 75-100 cm (30-40 in), but 30% of the country, which borders Lake Malawi, receives as much as 163 cm (64in) of rain….nearly double!


The Malawian diet mainly consists of maize and starchy roots, including cassava and potatoes. When available, fruits and vegetables are also eaten. Three quarters of pre-school children are considered anemic, due to an almost exclusive maize-based diet.

Food insecurity and nutritional deficiency rates are very high in Malawi, with 42% stunting in children under 5 years old. Any human or nature-caused shocks, such as drought, can cause a major food crisis in the country.

Peanut Production

Smallholder farmers account for around 93% of peanut production. Of the total peanut production, around 40% is marketed. The sector has high growth potential but faces many needs, which could be addressed through the use of improved seeds and infrastructure development.

Peanuts have traditionally been an export crop of Malawi, until a crash in production and trade occurred in the 1980s. Since then, production has recovered.

Country Area Harvested Yield Production
  Acres Hectares Lb/Acre Kg/Hectare Tons Metric Tonnes
Malawi 896,557 362,824 935 1,049 419,760 380,800
United States 1,040,313 421,000 4,011 4,496 2,086,675 1,893,000
Table Data Source (FAOSTAT, 2013)          

Improving the yield Malawian farmers get from their land would help the smallholder farmers’ bottom line and provide nutritious food for malnourished children.

Local Peanut Facts

  • Production is concentrated in the central region of the country.
  • Forty percent of the crop goes to market, 10 percent is exported.
  • Export markets include Tanzania (49 percent), Kenya (28 percent), South Africa (11 percent).
  • Aflatoxin contamination is a primary constraint of expanding export markets to the European Union.
  • Groundnuts are commonly eaten raw, cooked, roasted, or fried and are an important protein source for those without access to meat, dairy, or eggs.
  • Groundnut flour is a common ingredient in local sauces and served with staples, like maize and rice.
  • Groundnut hay and seed cake are used as animal feed, but are in limited supply due to the importance of groundnut in the human diet.