The Human Right to Food in Malawi: Report of an International Fact-Finding Mission page – 1

The Human Right to Food in Malawi: Report of an International Fact-Finding Mission


Many people worked long hours to organize the fact-finding mission to Malawi.

Others took the time to speak with the mission delegation while it was in Malawi.

Still others assisted in the drafting and editing of this report. We are grateful to them

all and extend our sincere thanks and appreciation.

In particular we are indebted to Billy Mayaya of Church and Society in Malawi

who originally conceived the right to food project on which the mission was based

and was its chief advisor. We thank also Mildred Sharra and Edson Musopole, both

of Action Aid Malawi, who arranged the site visits and accompanied us there. We

would also like to thank Tamara Herman and Robin Campbell at Rights & Democracy

and the staff of FIAN International for providing research, technical back-up and

moral support. We very much appreciate the goodwill extended by officials of the

Government of Malawi, parliamentarians and foreign missions who met with our

delegation and shared so much valuable information with us. We especially thank

the Technical Secretariat of Malawi’s Ministry of Agriculture for the provision of

useful background documents.

The fact-finding mission was funded by Rights & Democracy with support from FIAN

International, Action Aid, Misereor and the International Food Security Network (a

project of the European Union). Their support is sincerely appreciated.

We are indebted to the communities we visited in the Kasungu, Mchinji and Salima

districts for their hospitality and readiness to share their observations and concerns

with us. Finally, the human rights activists who served with us on the fact-finding

mission—Mike Anane, Stanley Khaila, Anne Wanjiku Maina, and Kevin Wilmut

are the reason for any success the mission might achieve. Their commitment is an


Carole Samdup Kofi Yakpo

Program Officer Africa Desk Coordinator

Rights & Democracy FIAN International

The problem of hunger is not limited to Malawi. The United Nations Food

and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that more than 800 million

people around the world suffer from hunger and that the millennium target

of reducing that number by half will not be met without stronger commitments

and an accelerated pace. In its annual report, The State of Food Insecurity

in the World 2005, the FAO cites “good governance” as a key factor in countries

where food insecurity has been significantly reduced. The FAO pointed to

specific elements of democratic governance necessary for the reduction of

hunger, including respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.1


With regards to human rights, the FAO highlights the recent adoption by

its members of Voluntary Guidelines to support the progressive realization of the

right to adequate food in the context of national food security.2 The Guidelines

provide a practical tool to assist States to both understand and fulfill their

obligations. The process to draft and adopt the Guidelines was the first time

that any of the economic, social and cultural rights have been negotiated

by governments in a multilateral forum outside of the UN’s human rights

system. Their adoption in September 2004 illustrates the value that States

place on human rights as a basic construct of development.


This report and the fact-finding mission on which it is based represent an

effort to apply the FAO Guidelines in a practical experience and in doing so,

to illustrate the distinct advantages a human rights framework provides for

policy and program development. Rights & Democracy and FIAN International

hope that the information gathered in the course of our mission and

presented in this report will encourage greater support for the FAO Guidelines

and generate new approaches to ending hunger in Malawi as well as

in other countries and regions of the world.

1 The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2005, UN FAO, Rome, Italy, 2005, p.11.

2 The FAO Guidelines can be downloaded at

18 The Human Right to Food in Malawi


The Mission

The international fact-finding mission (April 17-23, 2006) was undertaken

as a collaborative initiative of Rights & Democracy and FIAN International.

It responded to a request from the National Taskforce on the Human Right

to Food, a network of Malawian civil society organizations coordinated by

Church and Society, a project of the CCAP Blantyre Synod. The objective

of the mission was to take stock of the hunger crisis from a human rights

perspective and to provide related recommendations as a contribution

towards sustainable food security and food self-sufficiency in Malawi. It

was also hoped, that the exposure provided by an international delegation

of human rights experts would be an impetus to the civil society campaign

for a “Human Right to Food Bill” to be passed in Malawi’s parliament.

The mission delegation was comprised of six individuals from Canada, Germany,

Ghana, Malawi and Zambia. Their biographical notes are included

in Annex 1 of this report.