Fertilizer subsidies and FAC?s policy influence in ‘real time’

FAC researchers’ evaluation of Malawi’s 2006/7 Agricultural Input Support Programme (MAISP) continued with completion of core sections of the programme evaluation for 2007/8 and 2008/091. FAC team members continue to work closely with the Ministry to help maximise the long-term sustainability and benefits of this programme. But FACs research goes beyond evaluating the programme itself to include analysis of the policies of the government in Fertiliser Subsidies: Lessons from Malawi for Kenya (pdf) and The Malawi Fertiliser Subsidy Programme: Politics and Pragmatism (pdf).

Building on this research, FAC held a stakeholders policy workshop entitled Fertiliser Subsidies: Lessons from Malawi and Kenya in February 2009 in Nairobi in which then Minister of Agriculture Hon. William Ruto was presented with new proposals regarding effective, sustainable and equitable delivery of “smart” fertiliser subsidies, drawing on lessons from FAC work in Malawi and Kenya. The policy workshop was attended by key members of government, private sector companies, international donors, civil society and researchers.

FAC team members continue to contribute to Malawi’s subsidy policies by collecting household data, conducting analysis of MAISP data on subsidy access and use, presenting findings to the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, preparing joint FAC-CSO analyses on lessons learned and presenting findings at fora including “Towards a ‘Green Revolution’ in Africa?”, an AGRA policy conference in Nairobi, a joint ILRI / AGRA conference on the Role of Markets and seminars/workshops for the FAO, the World Bank, IFAD and DFID.

Expanding horizons

This FAC initiative delivered evaluation findings and policy recommendations directly to the Malawian Ministry of Agriculture and the Kenyan Minister of Agriculture. Malawi’s MoA has used FAC analysis to strengthen its high-profile subsidy programme and the Kenya policy workshop expanded policy “horizons” by convening a rare discussion between diverse policy stakeholders. FAC analysis shows that effectively-designed input subsidy programmes can lead to increased agricultural growth and employment, but problems of cost, capture and sustainability need to be addressed and opportunities for improved effectiveness and efficiency realised. Documenting and debating the Malawi fertiliser subsidy story helped identify key lessons for donors and others, and generated interest at ministerial levels in Kenya and Ethiopia.


  • Multi-stakeholder engagement (e.g. policy makers, private sector, researchers, civil society, etc.) is a complex, but very useful way to expand policy horizons and influence policy actors.
  • The influence of formal evaluations on programme outcomes driven by government policy can be significant.