The very poor, landlocked, country of Malawi is pursuing the twin strategies of decentralisation and the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP). This paper seeks to provide a critical viewpoint on these macro level processes based in micro level investigations of rural livelihoods. The truly desperate livelihood circumstances of most rural Malawians are emphasized by qualitative and quantitative information on assets, activities and outcomes in eight villages in Dedza and Zomba districts. Rural Malawians confront multiple severe constraints, with only non-farm options offering some scope for constructing pathways out of poverty. While the PRSP process is able to address broadscale improvements in education, health and roads provision, it offers little by way of instituting an enabling environment for non-farm enterprise to flourish. Meanwhile fiscal decentralisation occurring in 27 new district assemblies seems certain to create new barriers to trade and enterprise by multiplying business licenses and commodity taxes. A hitherto little explored but important contradiction between these different macro strategic processes concerned with poverty reduction is brought to the surface.
Ellis, F.; Kutengule, M.; Nyasulu, A. Livelihoods and Rural Poverty Reduction in Malawi. (2002) 29 pp. [LADDER Working Paper No.17]