The New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition (NAFSN) in Malawi cooperates with tobacco companies, thus ignoring the country’s urgent necessity to move away from its dependence on tobacco exports.

In 2012, the G8 initiated a development program intended to lift 50 million people out of poverty until 2022. The New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition (NAFSN) is implemented in 10 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and uses a multi-stakeholder approach strongly involving the private sector.

From the beginning, the initiative has been closely monitored by civil society organisations all over the world. There are several issues with the NAFSN. Governments are forced to implement reforms in order to gain increased investment through the program.

The liberalisation of farmland opens the door to land grabbing, leaving smallholder farmers without their most important means of production. The promotion of certified seeds (hybrid and genetically modified organisms) endangers biodiversity and deprives smallholder farmers of their own seed systems on which they rely for survival. And the reforms of the tax system are inviting large multinational companies to enter the market leaving local businesses without opportunities to face the upcoming power imbalances.

Thereby, the program favours big agribusiness over smallholder farmers who produce more than 70% of the world’s food. In this light, the NAFSN is not coherent with the 2030-Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Goals.

Food security and tobacco in Malawi

Malawi is a densely populated country with 35.8 % of its population undernourished. At the same time, the country is highly dependent on tobacco exports generating approx. 50% of the total export revenues. Malawi is the world’s top exporter of Burley tobacco and not a Party to the FCTC.

The NAFSN in Malawi under the aegis of the European Union includes, under the pretext of improved food security, the increase of tobacco growing in terms of yield per hectare as well as of cultivation area. Furthermore, the program cooperates with subsidiaries of the world’s leading two leaf tobacco merchants: Alliance One Malawi (AOM) and Limbe Leaf Tobacco Company (LLTC).

According to the 2014 progress report, AOM seeks inter alia to increase the production of flue cured Virginia tobacco sixfold and to nearly double the Burley tobacco production. Additionally, the company plans to triple its area under cultivation, for tobacco as well as maize and soya.

LLTC basically intends to further the transformation of the tobacco growing sector in Malawi from the auction system to the integrated production system. By directly contracting farmers, the company gains control over the whole production cycle and is able to exert its power when it comes to grade leaf tobacco and to set prices.

Another company, Mpatsa Farms Ltd., planed to venture into fish farming and the cultivation of rice, cotton, soya, and maize. In 2014, the company acknowledged to have given up its plans. Instead of fishery, soya, and cotton the company channelled resources to tobacco growing „due to preferential prices“.

Thus, the NAFSN results in re-increasing Malawi’s dependence on tobacco exports. It endangers food security and increases poverty among smallholder and tenant farmers. Even the former Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier De Schutter, reported the extremely precarious conditions of tobacco tenants after his visit in 2013.

Food Security and FCTC Article 5.3

Apart from threatenting food security instead of furthering it, the inclusion of tobacco companies into NAFSN is used by tobacco industry funded frontgroups like the International Tobacco Growers’ Association (ITGA) to promote their crop. The newly elected vice president of ITGA, Reuben Maigwa from Malawi, even claimed the industry’s integrated production system would lead to sustainable tobacco growing and food security.

In a country where one third of the population is undernourished, it is absurd and cynical to promote tobacco growing instead of switching to food crops. If Malawi would use all its tobacco cultivation area to grow food, the harvest could feed 750,000 people.

The cooperation with tobacco companies in the NAFSN only serves the industry’s commercial interests, including shining their image as responsible industry used in the fight against tobacco control measures.

Therefore, the FCTC Article 5.3 must be implemented in development policies, too, in order to achieve more policy coherence for a sustainable future.


This article was first published in a shortened form in the FCA Bulletin for the COP7 in Delhi.

In a country where one third of the population is undernourished, it is absurd and cynical to promote tobacco growing instead of food crops.