Cultural Anthropology is the study of human cultures, beliefs, practices, values, ideas, technologies, economies and other domains of social and cognitive organization. This field is based primarily on cultural understanding of populations of living humans gained through first hand experience or participant observation.
This chapter will introduce you to the field of anthropology, define basic terms and concepts and explain why it is important, and how it can change your perspective of the world around you.
What is Anthropology?
Anthropology is the scientific study of human beings as social organisms interacting with each other in their environment, and cultural aspects of life. It is a scholarly discipline that aims to describe in the broadest possible sense what it means to be human. Anthropologists are interested in comparison. To make substantial and accurate comparisons between cultures, a generalization of humans requires evidence from the wide range of human societies. Anthropologists are in direct contact with the sources of their data, thus field work is a crucial component. The field of Anthropology, although fairly new as an academic field, has been used for centuries. Anthropologists are convinced that explanations of human actions will be superficial unless they acknowledge that human lives are always entangled in complex patterns of work and family, power and meaning.
Five Disciplines of Anthropology
- Applied Anthropology: Includes the fields of Applied Medical Anthropology, Urban Anthropology, Anthropological Economics, Contract Archaeology and others. Applied anthropology is simply the practice of applying anthropological theory and or methods from any of the fields of Anthropology to solve human problems. For example, applied anthropology is often used when trying to determine the ancestry of an unearthed Native American burial. Biological anthropology can be used to test the DNA of the body and see if the DNA of the burial has any similarities to living populations. Medical Anthropology studies illness and healthcare within specific populations in order to form healthcare solutions that are tailored specifically to populations as well as identify unique areas of susceptibility within populations.
- Archaeology: The study and interpretation of ancient humans or animals, their history, and culture. This is done through examination of the artifacts and remains that they left behind. An example of this is the study of Egyptian culture through the examination of their grave sites and the pyramids and the tombs in the Valley of Kings. Through the examination of pyramids and tombs in which these ancient humans lived in, much about human history and Egyptian culture is learned. Archaeology is an important study in improving knowledge about ancient humans, particularly, prehistoric or the long stretch of time before the development of writing.
- Biological Anthropology: A subfield of Anthropology that studies humanity through the human body as a biological organism, using genetics, evolution, human ancestry, primates, and their ability to adapt. There was a shift in the emphasis on differences (with the older “physical anthropology”) due to the development of the “new” physical anthropology developed by Sherwood Washburn at the University of California, Berkley. This field shifted from racial classification when it was discovered that physical traits that had been used to determine race could not predict other traits such as intelligence and morality. Some biological anthropologists work in the fields of primatology, which studies the closest living relative of human beings, the nonhuman primate. They also work in the field of paleoanthropology, which is the study of fossilized bones and teeth of our earliest ancestors. (also: Physical Anthropology). Biological anthropologists focus heavily on comparing and contrasting the biology of humans to that of our nearest extant relatives, the primates, to discover what distinguishes humans from primates as well as primates from other mammals.
- Cultural Anthropology: The study of contemporary human cultures and how these cultures are formed and shape the world around them. Cultural anthropologists often conduct research by spending time living in and observing the community they study (fieldwork) and participant observation in order to increase understanding of its politics, social structures, and religion. (also: sociocultural anthropology, social anthropology, or ethnology)
- Linguistic Anthropology: Examines human languages: how they work, how they are made, how they change, and how they die and are later revived. Linguistic anthropologists try to understand the language in relation to the broader cultural, historical, or biological contexts that make it possible. The study of linguistics includes examining phonemes, morphemes, syntax, semantics, and pragmatics. They look at linguistic features of communication, which includes any verbal contact, as well as non-linguistic features, such as, eye contact, the cultural context, and even the recent thoughts of the speaker.
Holism in Anthropology
Anthropology is holistic , comparative, field-based, and evolutionary. These regions of Anthropology shape one another and become integrated over time. Historically it was seen as "the study of others," meaning foreign cultures, but using the term "others" imposed false thoughts of "civilized versus savagery." These dualistic views have often caused wars or even genocide. Now, anthropologists strive to uncover the mysteries of these foreign cultures and eliminate the prejudice that it first created.''Holism is the perspective on the human condition that assumes that mind, body, individuals, society, and the environment interpenetrate and even define one another. In anthropology holism tries to integrate all that is known about human beings and their activities. From a holistic perspective, attempts to divide reality into mind and matter isolate and pin down certain aspects of a process that, by very nature, resists isolation and dissection. Holism holds great appeal for those who seek a theory of human nature that is rich enough to do justice to its complex subject matter. An easier understanding of holism is to say that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts."
The holistic approach is a perspective that assumes interrelationships among parts of a subject including both biological and cultural aspects. This approach is used to study the thoughts, behaviors, emotional, and spiritual changes we experience as humans. Anthropologists have the opportunity to use this approach to study the way humans are interested in engaging and developing as a whole person. Page text.
What is Culture?
Culture is the patterns of learned and shared behavior and beliefs of a particular social, ethnic, or age group. It can also be described as the complex whole of collective human beliefs with a structured stage of civilization that can be specific to a nation or time period. Humans, in turn, use culture to adapt and transform the world they live in.
This idea of Culture can be seen in the way that we describe the Ashanti, an African tribe located in central Ghana. The Ashanti live with their families as you might assume but the meaning of how and why they live with whom is an important aspect of Ashanti culture. In the Ashanti culture, the family and the mother’s clan are most important. A child is said to inherit the father’s soul or spirit (ntoro) and from the mother, a child receives flesh and blood (mogya), relating them more closely to the mother’s clan. The Ashanti live in an extended family. The family lives in various homes or huts that are set up around a courtyard. The head of the household is usually the oldest brother that lives there. He is chosen by the elders. He is called either Father or Housefather and everyone in the household obeys him.
The anthropological study of culture can be organized along two persistent and basic themes: Diversity and Change. An individual's upbringing and environment (or culture) is what makes them diverse from other cultures. It is the differences between all cultures and sub-cultures of the world's regions. People's need to adapt and transform to physical, biological and cultural forces to survive represents the second theme, Change. Culture generally changes for one of two reasons: selective transmission or to meet changing needs. This means that when a village or culture is met with new challenges, for example, a loss of a food source, they must change the way they live. This could mean almost anything to the culture, including possible forced redistribution of, or relocation from ancestral domains due to external and/or internal forces. And an anthropologist would look at that and study their ways to learn from them.
'•Learned' through active teaching, and passive habitus.
'•Shared' meaning that it defines a group and meets common needs.
•'Patterned' meaning that that there is a recourse of similar ideas. Related cultural beliefs and practices show up repeatedly in different areas of social life.
•'Adaptive' which helps individuals meet needs across variable environments.
•'Symbolic' which means that there are simple and arbitrary signs that represent something else, something more.
Originally the overlap of the two concepts had a positive effect, especially during colonial times; it helped spread the idea that vulnerable seemingly “primitive” and “uncivilized” cultures had some intrinsic value and deserved protection from other more dominating cultures. However, the drawback of this is it assumes first that culture is a static thing that it can be preserved, unchanged by the changing people and times it runs into. It also assumes that the people accept at face value and do not wish to change their patterns or ways of life. If people then do change, often they are criticized by a member from within and outside their own culture for not valuing ‘authenticity’ and tradition. This relates to the "Culture" vs. "culture" in that field of anthropology’s focus and appreciation of Culture and how it develops differently can be twisted when talking about Cultural relativism or human rights. Appreciation and defense of Culture do not imply blind tolerance to all aspects of all cultures.
Levels of Culture
How you express culture as a family through traditions, roles, beliefs, and other areas, is what describes this aspect of culture. Familial culture is passed down from generation to generation, it is both shared and learned. As a family grows, new generations are introduced to the traditional family practices. Familial culture is learned by means of enculturation which is the process by which a person learns the requirements of the culture that he or she is surrounded by. With enculturation, an individual will also learn behaviors that are appropriate or necessary in their given culture. The influences of enculturation from the family will then direct and shape the individual.
The present Royal family of Great Britain is a good example of family tradition, as each male member of the royal family has served in the armed forces. This tradition began with the Duke of Edinburgh enlisting in Great Britain's Royal Navy prior to World War II, and the tradition has continued through the generations.
Micro or Subculture
Micro or Subculture are distinct groups within a larger group that share some sort of common trait, activity or language that ties them together and/or differentiates them from the larger group. A micro or subculture is also not limited to how small it can be, it could be defined similarly to a clique. An example of this could be Mexican-Americans within the U.S. society. They share the same language, but they may have their own traditions that differentiate them for the whole. An example of a micro-culture would be the Japanese hip hop genba (club site) that is becoming more and more popular throughout Japanese cities. Although rap began in the United States, it has created its own unique appearance and style in the Japanese youth today. The physical appearance of rappers may be the same to those in the States, however, the content of the music differs along with the preservation of Japanese traditions.
Cultural universals ( which has been mentioned by anthropologists like George Murdock, Claude Levi-Strauss, Donald Brown and others) are common elements that exist in every human culture yet varies from different ethnic groups. This includes attributes such as values and modes of behavior. Examples of elements that may be considered cultural universals are gender roles, the incest taboo, religious and healing ritual, mythology, marriage, language, art, dance, music, cooking, games, jokes, sports, birth, and death because they involve some sort of ritual ceremonies accompanying them, etc. Many anthropologists and socialists with an extreme perspective of cultural relativism deny the existence or reduce the importance of cultural universals believing that these traits were only inherited biologically through the known controversy of “nurture vs. nature”. They are mainly known as "empty universals" since just mentioning their existence in a culture doesn't make them any more special or unique. The existence of these universals has been said to date to the Upper Paleolithic with the first evidence of behavioral modernity.
Among the cultural universals listed by Brown are:
• Language and cognition - All cultures employ some type of communication, symbolism is also a universal idea in language.
• Society - Being in a family, having peers, or being a member of any organized group or community is what makes society.
• Myth, Ritual, and aesthetics - Different cultures all have a number of things in common, for example, a belief system, celebration of life and death, and other ceremonial events.
• Technology - There are worldwide variations in clothing, housing, tools and techniques for getting food through different types of technology.
Two Views of Culture
An etic view is a judgment or perspective about a culture, gained based on an analysis from an outsider's customs and culture. Etic view minimizes the acceptance between two parties. Therefore, the importance of having an anthropological knowledge is greatly beneficial. There are so many situations where a person can have or get an etic view on. For example, if an American anthropologist went to Africa to study a nomadic tribe, their resulting case study would be from an etic standpoint if they did not integrate themselves into the culture they were observing. Some fields of anthropology may take this approach to avoid altering the culture that they are studying by direct interaction. The etic perspective is data gathering by outsiders that yield questions posed by outsiders. One problem that anthropologists may run in to is that people tend to act differently when they are being observed. It is especially hard for an outsider to gain access to certain private rituals, which may be important for understanding a culture. Etic ethnographic works often use exotic language when describing the "other".
An emic view of culture is ultimately a perspective focus on the intrinsic cultural distinctions that are meaningful to the members of a given society. This is often considered to be an 'insider’s' perspective. While this perspective stems from the concept of immersion in a specific culture; the emic participant is not always a member of that culture or society. Studies done from an emic perspective often include more detailed and culturally rich information than studies done from an etic point of view. Because the observer places themselves within the culture of intended study, they are able to go further in-depth on the details of practices and beliefs of a society that may otherwise have been ignored. However, the emic perspective has its downfalls. Studies done from an emic perspective can create bias on the part of the participant, especially if said individual is a member of the culture they are studying, thereby failing to keep in mind how their practices are perceived by others and possibly causing valuable information to be left out. The emic perspective serves the purpose of providing descriptive in-depth reports about how insiders of a culture understand their rituals, beliefs, and traditions.
Enculturation is a process by which we obtain and transmit culture. This process is experienced universally among humans. It describes how each individual is affected by prohibited behaviors and beliefs, which are 'proscribed' rather than encouraged behaviors and beliefs, which are 'prescribed'. Parents and other authority figures in young children’s lives are usually the initiators of this process, steering the children toward activities and beliefs that will be socially accepted in their culture. Through this process, these authority figures definitely shape the child’s view on life. Enculturation results in the interpretation of these ideals established by our culture and the establishment of our own individual behaviors and beliefs. In general, enculturation is a refereed journal devoted to contemporary theories of rhetoric, writing, and culture, and invites submissions on rhetoric, composition, media, technology, and education.
Cultural Transmission is the passing of new knowledge and traditions of culture from one generation to the next, as well as cross-culturally. Cultural Transmission happens every day, all the time, without any concept of when or where. Everything people do and say provides cultural transmission in all aspects of life. In everyday life, the most common way cultural norms are transmitted is within each individuals' home life. Each family has its own, distinct culture under the big picture of each given society and/or nation. With every family, there are traditions that are kept alive. The way each family acts and communicates with others and an overall view of life are passed down. Parents teach their kids every day how to behave and act by their actions alone. Outside of the family, culture can be transmitted at various social institutions. Places of worship, schools, even shopping centers are places where enculturation happens amongst a population.
Social institutions are a framework of social relationships that link an individual to the society, through participation. The forms of these social relationships can vary greatly across political, economic, religious, and familial platforms. Cross culturally, these relationships require understanding of the norms, values, and traditions that make them functional. Cultural transmission takes place within these relationships throughout an individual's lifetime.
Examples of these relationships range from marriage to participating in church. The complexities that govern this relationship are unique and highly culturally bound. Often external factors such as economics and health issues come into play. Studies were done in rural Malawi that discuss these issues further:
Symbols within Culture
A symbol is an object, word, or action that stands for something else, depending on the culture. Everything one does throughout their life is based and organized through cultural symbolism, which is when something represents abstract ideas or concepts. Symbols can represent a group or organization that one is affiliated with and mean different things to different people, which is why it is impossible to hypothesize how a specific culture will symbolize something. Some symbols are gained from experience, while others are gained from culture. One of the most common cultural symbols is language. For example, the letters of an alphabet symbolize the sounds of a specific spoken language. Hawaiian culture presents a good example of symbols in culture through the performance of a Lua which is a symbol of their land and heritage through song and dance 
Symbols can have good or bad meanings depending on how others interpret them. For example, the Swastika shown on the German Flag back in World War 2 means good fortune in some religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism and often used on designs, but after World War 2 the meaning of the Swastika shifted to a negative side among Americans. Street gangs have used colors and gang signs to show their affiliation to a gang. For Example, bloods are a street gang that are usually associated with red and have a gang sign that resembles the word ‘blood’.
This article needs to be updated. Please update this article to reflect recent events or newly available information.(May 2015)
Malawi is one of the world’s least developed countries and is ranked 170 out of 187 countries according to the 2010 Human Development Index. It has about 16 million people, 53% of whom live under the national poverty line, and 90% of whom live on less than $2 per day. The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) estimated that there are 46,000 severely malnourished children.
In 2012, there was a famine in Malawi with death estimates ranging from 300 to 3,000, according to ActionAid. 85 percent of Malawians' primary source of income comes from agriculture, and wheat and potato were the primary crop grown and consumed. Therefore, when the IMF reported that the 2000/2001 maize harvest fell from 2.5 million to 1.7 million metric tons, creating a national deficit of 273,000 metric tons, many were affected. In February 2002, the Malawi government announced that there was a food emergency and that the country was in a State of Disaster. The harvest in the later half of 2002 alleviated the worst of the famine, but in 2005, a drought prompted a food crisis. On October 15, 2005, the government, led by PresidentBingu wa Mutharika, declared another national disaster. Malawi has since recovered from the 2005 crisis, but it is currently facing another food shortage.[needs update]
Scholars trace back Malawi's food crisis to 1991 and 1992, when a drought in southern Africa severely reduced Malawi's maize production. The price of maize shot up: the cost of maize, which is 54% of the average caloric intake for Malawians, almost doubled between 1992 and 1993. Although there was a maize surplus in 1993 due to improved rainfall and government-subsidized hybrid maize seed and fertilizer, food consumption did not increase because of people’s eating and coping habits during the famine.
A government agency ADMARC controlled the purchasing and trading of smallholder cash crops and fertilizers prior to 1998. Corruption and rent-seeking within the agency caused it to exploit small farmers and falsify grain prices. When tobacco prices fell in 1985, ADMARC nearly went bankrupt. In order to acquire loans from the World Bank, ADMARC became a partially privately owned company and eliminated its fertilizer subsidies in 1988/1989.ADMARC’s inability to provide fertilizer and seeds to small farmers also contributed to the food crisis in 1992.
Since then, periodic droughts and floods have continued to affect Malawi. Between 1990 and 2006, there were 33 weather-related disasters, a rise from the 7 that occurred between 1970 and 1989, according to ActionAid. Malawi's economy is heavily agricultural; most people survive on their own harvest and sell the excess to make a small income. The high number and increasing severity of droughts and floods since 1990 has affected much of the country's population—farmers had little ability to adapt to or recover from disasters, making them more vulnerable to future events, and the cycle of poverty and hunger worsened. From the early 1970s to 1994, the government subsidized hybrid maize growth. When the government stopped this program because it was becoming too expensive support, maize production fell and price increased again.
The population of Malawi had increased rapidly in the decades before the food crisis. From 3 million in 1950 the population grew to 9,6 million in 1991. So at least two thirds of the people affected by this crisis, were suffering because of the population growth in the previous decades.  This means that two thirds of this crisis was caused by the population growth since 1950. So the number of people suffering because of the food crisis, was much higher than it would have been without the rapid population growth in the preceding decades.
After gaining independence in 1964, Malawi was under the presidency of Hastings Banda. Although the people had voting rights, Malawi was a one-party state, and Banda was the leader of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), the only existing party at the time. Banda therefore had the authority of a dictator, and there were many human rights violations during his reign such as the killings of political dissenters. It wasn’t until 1993 when people voted for a multiparty state that Banda and the MCP were voted out of power. A new constitution was established in 1995, creating a government with an executive, unicameral legislative, and judicial branch. In 1998, under the democratic presidency of Bakili Muluzi, the government established the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) to manage the strategic grain reserve in disaster relief. The NFRA, a government-owned agency with a board of trustees appointed by the Malawian government, and it managed not only the physical grain reserve, but also the finances and imports and exports involved with the reserve.
However, the NFRA quickly incurred a debt of 1 billion Malawian kwacha (MK) due to the high interest rate of 56% at which it bought 165,000 metric tons of maize, according to the IMF. In 2001, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) recommended that the government sell the grain reserve because harvest had been ample in 2000. There seemed to be little use for such a large reserve, and the grain itself was rotting. The IMF’s recommendation also came as a result of a 2000 study requested by the European Commission that showed that only 30,000-60,000 metric tons of maize would be necessary to support the country in the case of a localized disaster. Maintaining such a large supply of maize is expensive, and the study recommended developing better importation strategies in the case of an unexpectedly large food crisis. NFRA followed the IMF’s advice and sold a majority of its reserve to Kenya and Mozambique decreasing the reserve from 165,000 metric tons of maize to 60,000. One of the popular opinions about the causes of the food crisis, according to a 2002 ActionAid report, is that the food crisis was in part caused by the IMF's advice to sell the grain reserve. However, the IMF and ActionAid recognize that the grain was old and expensive to store, and at the time, it made sense to advise NFRA to sell.
By 2002, when the worst of the famine hit, the grain reserve was depleted, and the government did not have any additional resources. The situation was exacerbated by the government’s poor preparation in replenishing the reserve sources as they were used. Furthermore, private traders bought out much of the grain reserve, and resold it at excessive prices when food was scarce in 2001. The government began importing maize from neighboring countries and abroad, but the maize was slow to arrive. From congested roads to inefficiently rerouted trucks and overcrowded ports, there were a variety of transportation bottlenecks that delayed the arrival of food aid. Additionally, poor relationships with some donor countries made them slow to respond; many were suspicious of the IMF’s involvement in depleting the strategic grain reserve, and others were wary of government corruption.
Furthermore, the current policies in place to address food crises are insufficient. Malawi's policies for disaster management, called the National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA), do not take into consideration gender and health, only agriculture and environment. Most disaster and climate change management occurs on a national level, and not all policies and practices trickle down to local communities; district leaders in Nsanje and Salima did not know that the NAPA existed when asked in 2006.
In 2009, the UN reported that 80% of Malawi’s population was rural; there are few industry- or service-related jobs. Some were able to work on large tobacco plantations, find jobs in cities, or migrate to neighboring countries for low-wage jobs, but there are few openings.Britannica Online claims that in the 2000s, over 80% of the population worked in agriculture. Approximately 33% of the national GDP came from agriculture, as well as over 50% of the export earnings (namely tobacco, sugar, tea, and cotton).
ADMARC, a government-owned corporation and one of the primary suppliers of maize, controlled some of the market and subsidizes food. A study by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy found that the market price of maize increased from 4MK/kg in June 2001 to 40+MK/kg in January 2002. The daily wage for workers, however, remained the same at 20MK/day. The liberalization of the market, especially in regards to the loss of control by ADMARC, has made tracking and controlling the maize market difficult. The price of maize is dependent on the market, and the NFRA does not have the power to intervene in the market.
Malawi's agricultural policies are also problematic: the country's food supply is heavily reliant on maize, and efforts to diversify crops have been unsuccessful. Therefore, a majority of its population suffered when the crop production, especially maize production, failed in 2001, because people could no longer grow food for themselves and did not have an income to purchase food.
Tobacco, the main export product in Malawi, has declined in international sales. Since the 1980s, its revenue has decreased by 50%, and thus the income and purchasing power of small farmers has decreased, according to the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. In 2000/2001, many small farmers failed to repay their private and government loans. Therefore, in 2001/2002, many were unable to receive credit with which to buy seeds and fertilizer for their crops. Other efforts to strengthen the agricultural sector such as encouraging mixed land usage, improving irrigation schemes, offering crop storage and protection, constructing roads and buildings, and providing credit and marketing opportunities, have been mainly offered to estate farmers, not small farmers.
Social and health
Poverty is widespread in Malawi, with 50% of its population living under the poverty line of $2/day according to the World Bank. The rural poor were especially vulnerable to the food crisis because they could not afford to buy food when their harvests failed.
A 2002 ActionAid report speculates that since 1994, when democracy was established in Malawi, there has been a social shift away from community solidarity. During the 1991/1992 drought, communities banded together and supported one another, giving food and employment to those that needed it. During the 2001/2002 food crisis, however, people's philosophies changed to an "anarchic mob justice," an "everyone for himself" attitude, according to the 2002 ActionAid report.
HIV/AIDS in Malawi is widespread: in 2012, the Malawian Government estimated that the disease affected about 17% of urban Malawians and 9% of rural Malawians. Households with adults affected by HIV/AIDS and households without adults due to HIV/AIDS have significantly lower agricultural productivity. Not only are those with HIV/AIDS prevented from working the fields, but other people must take care of them and a portion of the household income must go to medication and funerals. Thus, the prevalence of HIV/AIDS has made many Malawians vulnerable during the food crisis. During the 2002 famine, 70% of deaths in hospitals were due to HIV/AIDS.
The soil in Malawi is in poor condition due to many farmers' historical inability to afford fertilizer. There are few easy solutions to maintaining soil fertility; Malawi is too poor to import organic materials to restore soil nutrients, and land is too scarce to allocate large plots of land to soil restoration. Individual farmers cannot afford fertilizer for their land. Therefore, food production levels are also largely affected by declining soil fertility and land shortages.d shortage in Malawi by changing the climate. As rainfall patterns change and temperatures increase, the length of the productive growing season decreases and farmers must purchase more costly hybrid crops in order to obtain an adequate harvest. Some farmers shifted their maize season from November to December, while others shifted it earlier, in order to handle the changing weather. As aforementioned, the increasing frequency of droughts and floods has made farmers especially vulnerable to food shortages.
The rainfall in 2000/2001 and 2001/2002 was sporadic, with recurrent dry spells and floods that prevented sufficient harvests. Many farmers, in order to cope with the unpredictable weather, harvested their crops prematurely, which further decreased the crop production in 2001/2002. Furthermore, the changing weather patterns made the methods of predicting crop prediction unreliable; the existing warning systems that predicted crop production based on weather forecasts and regular crop assessments only predicted that a decrease in maize production in the 2001/2002 season would be compensated for by an increase in other crops such as roots and tubers production. However, all crops suffered in the 2001/2002 season. Thus, the government was unprepared for a food crisis in 2002.
Response & relief efforts
The Malawian government implemented a fertilizer subsidy program called the Farm Input Subsidy Program (FISP) in 2005, under which the government subsidized fertilizer and seed to vulnerable farmers. Fertilizer was priced at $7 per 50 kg bag, a marked discount from the market price of $27 per 50 kg bag. A study by Michigan State University found that although the erratic rainfalls curbed the program’s effectiveness in 2005/2006, improved weather in 2007 allowed the program to flourish and Malawi had a record maize harvest of 3.4 million tons, a surplus of 1.4 million. As a result, in 2007, Malawi was able to export maize for profit and donate maize to other countries in need; Zimbabwe imported 40,000 metric tons of maize from Malawi, and Lesotho and Swaziland both received 5,000 metric tons of maize donated by Malawi.
International and local NGOS, including the World Food Programme (WFP), the EU, UK, and USAID, donated food to Malawi after it was declared a state of disaster in 2002. In 2005, the WFP estimated that its food aid was feeding 11% of Malawi’s population.
The food crisis has made children especially vulnerable to malnutrition and disease. In 2006, UNICEF estimated that 46% of children under five were chronically malnourished and 19% were underweight. Since 1992, when the roots of the food crisis began, children’s nutritional status has not changed.
In 2001/2002 and 2005/2006, during seasons of severe food shortage, there were large cholera outbreaks throughout the country. UNICEF recognized that the outbreaks were prompted by poor hygiene and unsafe water sources compounded with the food crisis, which made people susceptible to disease. Similarly, a study conducted by Save The Children UK in February 2002 found that the food crisis affected people's health by causing swelling in the hands and feet of both adults and children.
The food shortage has resulted in several thousand hunger-related deaths; the exact numbers are unknown. Many of these deaths have further exacerbated the problem of HIV/AIDS, leaving those afflicted by the disease especially vulnerable and also producing a large orphan population. UNICEF estimates that 17% of children do not have living parents due to HIV/AIDS.
During the peak of the food crisis, from April to May 2002, the WHO conducted a health assessment in Malawi. It found that between October 2001 and March 2002, there was an average of 1.9 deaths per 10,000 every day. There was a cholera epidemic with 33,150 detected cases and 981 deaths, a fatality rate of 3%. Yet, the number of people seeking aid at health facilities decreased by 25% in that same period. The study suggested that the health facilities were crippled by shortages of staff and drugs and poor communication and transportation systems. As people began to prioritize food security over all else, health and seeking treatment at poorly-maintained health facilities fell to the wayside.
Starving people began to eat unsafe roots, maize cobs, sawdust, and boiled fruits and contracted food poisoning and other stomach illnesses. A report in The Lancet found that many families, even considerably wealthy ones, in Nsanje, a southern district in Malawi, were eating water-lily bulbs called nyika. These bulbs, which used to be considered snack foods but are now staple foods, cause diarrhea if eaten in abundance. In one instance, the eldest son of a family of ten found a collection of poisonous yams. The father gave the children and mother the yams to eat because they had no other food; he did not eat the yams himself because he prioritized his children's hunger and his wife's hunger over his own. The mother and all eight children died, one after another, due to vomiting and food poisoning.
The government's food security policy, the FISP, has raised agricultural productivity. As aforementioned, maize production surpassed domestic demand after the implementation of FISP. Between 2005 and 2011, Malawi’s GDP grew at an average of 11.7% per year, and many experts contributed the agricultural GDP growth to FISP. However, recent studies have suggested that FISP is not a sustainable program: as the number of needy households increase, the amount of fertilizer and seed provided has decreased from 85 kg per farmer in 2005/2006 to 60 kg per farmer in 2012/2013.
New food security policies were developed in 2002 and 2003. The Malawi Poverty Reduction Strategy was a framework policy document intended to direct and inform budget decisions for the central government. At the heart of the policy were economic growth, human capital, safety nets, and governance; by making budget decisions that encouraged agricultural economic growth and create effective safety nets, the government could promote food security and food availability. The Ministry of Agriculture collaborated with civil society organizations, other ministries, private companies, and donors to create a Food and Nutrition Security Policy. The policy aimed to: 1) increase food availability by extending irrigation systems and access to fertilizer and land, 2) strengthen the rural market, 3) create a number of health and dietary guidelines and services, and 4) establish and strengthen disaster management plans, the strategic grain reserve, and food production monitoring/predicting systems. Finally, the Ministry of Economic Planning and Development developed a growth strategy policy that would increase access to food by promoting trade and investment in rural Malawi to increase income and employment opportunities.
Culture and society
During the food crisis, people began to change their lifestyles to obtain food. Some have begun taking casual jobs in exchange for food. Many have sold household items and livestock at low prices to purchase food, making it difficult for them to regain stability after the food crisis. Some have migrated to Zambia and other neighboring countries to work for low wages or food.
The food crisis has also affected education. In some areas, the dropout rate has increased to 25% due to hunger. Many skip school in order to work or search for food, while others can no longer afford the school fees. Some teachers have complained that schools have lost their control over students because they cannot force students to stay, study, or do their homework if they are hungry and sick.UNICEF claims that in some areas where the food crisis is especially severe, one-half to three-quarters of school-aged children have stopped going to school. In response to this drop in school attendance, UNICEF and WFP began implementing programs that fed children in school and provide extra support and materials to teachers and staff. UNICEF reported that the program brought a "great improvement" in school attendance, in some cases even causing school buildings to overflow with children seeking food.
The overall social order has also worsened, as people have begun stealing from their neighbors, abandoning children, fighting for food, and exchanging sex for food. Theft of food and money has become much more common. In some areas, captured thieves are tortured and mutilated as punishment. The elderly, orphans, and women are increasingly vulnerable, not only because it is more difficult for them to provide for themselves, but also because they are bigger targets for theft and violence. In 2005, many women reported being attacked at the ADMARC market when purchasing their allotted 25 kg of maize. The price of sex work has decreased from MK1000 to MK200, heightening the risk for women and girls that must engage in such behaviors at a higher rate to earn money. The social structure of marriage has also changed as a result of the food crisis: many girls were forced to marry young because their families could not support them during the food crisis, leading to an increase in failed and abusive marriages. Other married men and women turned to infidelity to earn money and food, again leading to an increase in failed and abusive marriages.
There is a personal account of the famine by William Kamkwamba in his book "The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind." At the age of 14, Kamkwamba dropped out of school because his family could no longer afford the tuition. He began studying electronics in the local library and realized that he could use wind power to supply electricity to his village. His first windmill was used to power light bulbs and charge cell phones; others were used to pump irrigation systems and clean water wells. His story gained national publicity in 2007, from TED talks to The Daily Show, and his windmill projects gained the support of donors from around the world. According to the memoir, the government estimate of famine deaths appears to be severely understated.
2012-2013 food shortage
The maize harvest in 2012 decreased by 7% from 2011, and harsh flooding at the beginning of 2013 in southern Malawi destroyed 10,000 homes, according to a 2013 report by the Global Policy Forum. The Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee estimated in 2012–2013 that 2 million people were suffering from food shortages. In July 2012, the World Food Programme reported that "households in parts of the country have harvested almost nothing." The World Bank estimated that Malawi would require at least 57,000 metric tons of maize in the 2013/2014 season in order to address the food scarcity. The price of maize increased by 162% in 2013, due to low harvest, high cost of transportation, and devaluing of the MK. In July 2013, the UK announced that it would donate $20 million to Malawi for the “looming food crisis.”
ADMARCrationed maize sales to 10 kg per person. The Ministry of Agriculture claimed that this policy was created to prevent vendors from buying all the maize and reselling it to the poor at higher prices. However, news reporters from Blantyre Newspapers Limited, a Malawi-based news publisher, have found that ADMARC itself may also be suffering from a grain shortage because people have reported not being able to receive even their allotted 10 kg of grain.
- United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). 2013. Human Development Report 2013. New York: UNDP. http://hdr.undp.org/sites/default/files/reports/14/hdr2013_en_complete.pdf
- “Malawi,” FINCA, accessed 13 Feb. 2014. http://www.finca.org/site/c.6fIGIXMFJnJ0H/b.6088545/k.B818/Malawi.htm
- Phillips, Erica. “The 2002 Malawi Famine.” In Food Policy for Developing Countries: Case Studies, ed. Per Pinstrup-Andersen and Fuzhi Cheng.
- Lilliston, Ben and Ranallo, Andrew. “Grain Reserves and the Food Price Crisis: Selected Writings from 2008–2012.” June 2012. Institution for Agriculture and Trade Policy.
- Devereux, Stephen. “State of Disaster: Causes, Consequences, and Policy Lessons from Malawi.” June 2002. ActionAid. Lilongwe, Malawi: ActionAid.
- "Malawi—The Food Crises, the Strategic Grain Reserve, and the IMF." July 2002. International Monetary Fund. Washington, DC: IMF.
- "The Human Right to Food in Malawi." 2006. Rights & Democracy and FIAN International. Montreal, Canada: Rights & Democracy. https://web.archive.org/web/20140414075010/http://foodsecurecanada.org/sites/default/files/right_to_food_malawi.pdf
- Minot, Nicholas. "Staple food prices in Malawi." January 2010. Prepared for the Comesa policy seminar on "Variation in staple food prices: Causes, consequence, and policy options." Maputo, Mozambique:African Agricultural Marketing Project (AAMP). http://fsg.afre.msu.edu/aamp/seminar_3/AAMP_Maputo_22_Malawi_ppr.pdf
- "Update on the Nutrition Situation, 1994: Chapter 2, Recent Nutrition Trends in 14 Countries, Malawi." November 1994. Prepared in collaboration with the International Food Policy Research Institute. Washington, D.C.: United Nations. https://web.archive.org/web/20141116154114/http://www.unsystem.org/scn/archives/rwns94update/ch14.htm
- Hayes, L.M., Minae, S., Bunderson, W.T., Bodnar, F. & Ngugi, D. "The potential of improved fallows on small holder maize productivity on food security in Malawi." 1997. Paper presented at the International Symposium on The Science and Practice of Short-term Fallows. Lilongwe, Malawi.
- "Climate change and smallholder farmers in Malawi." ActionAid. October 2006. https://www.actionaid.org.uk/sites/default/files/doc_lib/malawi_climate_change_report.pdf
- Dorward, Andrew and Kydd, Jonathan. "The Malawi 2002 food crisis: the rural development challenge." The Journal of Modern African Studies 42 (2004): 343-361.
- Food and Agriculture Organization of the United States (FAO). 2002. "Special Report FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission to Malawi." Rome, Italy: FAO.
- World Bank. "Malawi Overview." Last modified October 2013. http://www.worldbank.org/en/country/malawi/overview
- Government of Malawi (2012). GLOBAL AIDS RESPONSE PROGRESS REPORT: Malawi Country Report for 2010 and 2011.
- Meera Kaul Shah, Nick Osborne, Thoko Mbilizi and George Vilili, Impact of HIV/AIDS on Agricultural Productivity and Rural Livelihoods in the Central Region of Malawi, CARE International in Malawi, Lilongwe, January 2002.
- Hardy, P. "Malawi soil fertility issues and options." 1998. Discussion Paper. http://www.reading.ac.uk/ssc/n/TIP%20Archive%20CD/related%20materials/SoilfertOpt/Malawistarterpack.pdf[permanent dead link]
- Masina, Lameck. "Washed Away: Malawi’s Food Security Hit by Natural Disasters." 2013. Global Policy Forum (GPF). New York: GPF. http://www.globalpolicy.org/social-and-economic-policy/world-hunger/environmental-degradation-and-hunger/52219-washed-away-malawis-food-security-hit-by-natural-disasters.html?itemid=id#1019
- Jayne, T.S., Chapoto, Antony, Minde, Isaac, and Donovan, Cynthia. "The 2008/09 food price and food security situation in eastern and southern Africa: Implications for immediate and longer run responses." 2008. International Development Working Paper Draft. http://fsg.afre.msu.edu/papers/idwpdraft.pdf
- UNICEF. “Malawi Annual Report.” 2006. Malawi: UNICEF. http://www.unicef.org/malawi/MLW_annualreport_2006.pdf
- Kamowa, Olex Mwati. "Living In The Abyss: Hunger In Mchinji, Lilongwe." Save the Children (UK). February 2002.
- Pauw, Karl and Thurlow, James. "Malawi’s Farm Input Subsidy Program: Where do we go from here?” 2014. Policy Note 18. International Food Policy Research Institute. http://www.ifpri.org/sites/default/files/publications/massppn18.pdf
- Sahley, Caroline. "The Governance Dimensions of Food Security in Malawi." 2005. USAID. http://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/pnade034.pdf
- "Moving Windmills Project," Moving Windmills Project, accessed 13 February 2014, http://www.movingwindmills.org/
- World Food Programme (WFP). "Trends and impacts of staple food prices in vulnerable countries." 2014. The Market Monitor. http://documents.wfp.org/stellent/groups/public/documents/ena/wfp262781.pdf
- Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (MVAC). "October 2012 Update, Bulletin No. 8 Volume 2." 2012. Lilongwe: Government of the Republic of Malawi. http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/Full%20Report_1125.pdf
- "Africa Food Crisis: UK pledges E35m to Malawi and Zimbabwe." July 11, 2013. BBC News. http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-23276632
- Musa, Madalitso. "No maize in Malawi’s Admarc depots." September 30, 2013. Bnl Times. https://web.archive.org/web/20150316233943/http://timesmediamw.com/no-maize-in-malawis-admarc-depots/
- UN. "Urban /rural division of countries for the year 2010." 2009. World Urbanization Prospects, The 2009 Revision, Population Division. https://web.archive.org/web/20140209164815/http://www.geohive.com/earth/pop_urban.aspx
- "HIV & AIDS in Malawi". AVERT. Retrieved 14 March 2014. http://www.avert.org/hiv-aids-malawi.htm
- "Health Assessment Mission in Malawi." WHO. Retrieved 13 April 2014. www.who.int/disasters/repo/7958.doc
- Lele, Uma. "Structural Adjustment, Agricultural Development and the Poor: Lessons from the Malawian Experience." 18 (1990): 1207-1219.
- Mkandawire, Thandika. "Agricultural Employment and Poverty in Malawi." 1999. International Labour Organization/Southern Africa Multidisciplinary Advisory Team (Zimbabwe).
- "Malawi: History." globalEDGE, Michigan State University, accessed 30 March 2014. http://globaledge.msu.edu/countries/malawi/history
- "The World Factbook Africa: Malawi." CIA World Factbook, accessed 30 March 2014. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/mi.html
- "Adequate Reserves for Malawi | National Food Reserve Agency." National Food Reserve Agency, accessed 30 March 2014. http://www.nframw.com/
- "Malawi." Encyclopædia Britannica, accessed 30 Mar. 2014. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/359614/Malawi
- INVESTING IN COMMUNITIES: The benefits and costs of building resilience for food security in Malawi." TearFund. November 2010. http://www.preventionweb.net/files/16866_16866investingincommunities1.pdf
- "The Effect of the Food Crisis on Women and Their Families." Women Thrive Worldwide, Global Policy Forum. May 2008. http://www.globalpolicy.org/the-dark-side-of-natural-resources-st/water-in-conflict/46209.html
- Kamkwamba, William. "William Kamkwamba: The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind | About." Accessed 30 March 2014. http://williamkamkwamba.typepad.com/about.html
- "Looming food crisis in Malawi." ActAlliance. 20 July 2012. http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/Alert%2025_2012_Looming%20food%20crisis_Malawi.pdf