Malawi is amongst the least developed countries in the world. Agriculture represents nearly 35% of the GDP and employs more than 85% of the population. The country's agricultural sector is dependent on rain-fed agriculture and as the impacts of climate change increase, Malawi is at a greater risk of food insecurity. Additionally, Malawi is land-locked, making access to markets difficult. CDI's programs in Malawi are active in Dowa, Neno, Kasungu, and Mchinji districts, which have a combined population of more than 1.5 million people, the majority of whom live in rural villages and operate small farms. CDI works with commercial partners, from commodity traders to carbon financers in Malawi, to ensure that smallholders maximize and retain the revenue from their own crops.
In 2013, CDI established a private, for-profit entity called Tukula Farming Company, to manage the operations of the commercial farms in Malawi. CDI is committed to improving the local supply of certified seed and developing climate-smart conservation agriculture for both the commercial farms and smallholder farmer clubs so farmers can accurately and better plan their businesses. Tukula currently operates five farm estates in the Mchinji and Kasungu Districts with a total of 3,300 hectares. Tukula cultivates seed and commercial row crops, as well as cover crops for soil rehabilitation.
CDI works with smallholder farmers in the central region of Malawi, with a focus on soybean as a high-value substitute for tobacco as the cash crop because of its ability to revitalize soil and strong nutritional profile. The project has grown from working with 200 farmers in the first year to more than 56,000 farmers in the Mchinji, Dowa, Ntchisi, and Kasungu districts today. Field officers have established a well-organized and empowered network of farmer clubs and associations with the help of lead farmers and government extension workers. Lead farmers act as peer advisors, communicating knowledge to and answering questions from fellow club members. CDI works with local financial institutions to increase the pool of capital and agriculture-specific financial products available to smallholder farmers through the established farmer groups. CDI is continuing to scale up its smallholder outreach program, with plans to reach 100,000 farmers.