The Integrated Risk Management Programme (IRMP) – Lessons from Malawi

With support from the Flemish Government of a total of 2.5 million EUR, WFP Malawi has led the Integrated Risk Management Programme (IRMP), which is a three-year project (2017-2019) implemented in three districts of the southern region of Malawi.
Over the last two decades, Malawi has increasingly been affected by the impacts of more frequent extreme weather events as a result of climate variability and climate change. With livelihoods dependent on rain-fed agriculture1 and a decreasing natural resource base, the population is highly vulnerable to climate variability and climate change, and food insecurity.
Despite significant development efforts, half of Malawians still live below the national poverty line.
In addition, the country has a complex food and nutrition situation with persistent annual food shortages as a result of recurrent seasonal dry spells and flooding episodes derived from El Niño and La Niña, respectively, observed in consecutive bad years. In particular, the southern region of the country has been worst hit with significant delays in the onset of the planting rains and sporadic and prolonged dry spells affecting the region through the crop development period.
The overall objective of the IRMP initiative is to reduce food, nutrition and income insecurity among vulnerable smallholder households in the context of increasing climatic risks and climate variability in three specific districts of southern Malawi: Chikwawa, Blantyre Rural and Mangochi (as shown in figure 1), targeting a total of 40,000 households.
For smallholder farmers whose livelihoods are dependent on rain-fed agriculture, and climate shocks such as prolonged dry spells and floods becoming more frequent and unpredictable, this poses significant and sometimes life-threatening difficulties. Therefore, improving access to timely and tailored climate and weather information for vulnerable, food insecure communities to strengthen their capacities accompanied by actionable advice is key to deal with the weather and climate uncertainty. This, in turn, can inform their decisions on agriculture, food security and livelihoods, contributing to the adoption of new technologies, improved inputs and new cultivation practices on the farm. In addition, expanding access to risk management mechanisms and strengthening safety nets to cope with climate hazards as well as promoting and facilitating access to financial services can help strengthen their capacities to invest and diversify their livelihoods, making them more productive and climate resilient.
The IRMP project builds on decades of experience that WFP has in food and nutrition security and resilience-building programmes in the country, as well as experience since 2014 in implementing climate services and integrated risk management schemes in Malawi under two global programmes known as Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS) Adaptation Programme for Africa2 and the R4 Rural Resilience Initiative.3 It also builds on the existing Food Assistance For Assets (FFA)4 programme in the three target districts.
Amongst the main aims behind IRMP was the scaling up to additional districts of the last mile climate services undertaken under the GFCS interventions through an integrated risk management approach.
IRMP’s integrated risk management approach combines three main activities:
i) Strengthen access to timely and tailored climate and weather information through the development of climate service ii) Mitigate risk through asset creation and weather index-based micro-insurance coverage iii) Improve access to financial services through micro credit and savings Integration of these activities followed a phased approach,5 both in terms of geographical targeting and different project components implemented to ensure greater benefits for vulnerable communities. Partnerships were key in ensuring IRMP success and WFP worked with key government stakeholders, NGOs and private sector partners.
IRMP is fully aligned with relevant national policies and strategies on climate change, disaster risk management, agriculture, social protection and resilience. An important outcome of the initiative has been to inform the country’s national policies, strategies and planning such as the National Adaptation Plans (NAP), Agriculture Sector Wide Approach (ASWAp) and contribute to the development of the National Framework on Climate Services, among other policy processes and programmes underway.
Table 1 below provides an overview of the main achievements to date within the IRMP programme in the districts of Blantyre Rural, Mangochi and Chikwawa in Southern Malawi.

Source: World Food Programme

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