The impact of climate and societal change on food and nutrition security: a case study of Malawi

Charlotte Hall* (Corresponding Author), Jennie Macdiarmid, Pete Smith, Terrence P. Dawson

*Corresponding author for this work

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4 Citations (Scopus)
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Society is currently facing an unprecedented challenge in terms of achieving food and nutrition security for a rapidly expanding global population while also minimising and reversing damage to the natural environment. Compounding this issue is climate change, which adversely affects the four pillars of food security: availability, access, utilisation and stability. This study aims to quantify the potential impact of future climate and societal change on food and nutrition security under a range of plausible scenarios. Malawi is used as a case study given it is one of the most food insecure countries in the world. Using the Food Estimation and Export for Diet and Malnutrition Evaluation modelling framework, the quantity and quality of the national food supply are assessed under a suite of future (2050) climate and socioeconomic scenarios. The results indicate that undernourishment prevalence could be reduced in Malawi under a best‐case scenario; however, undernourishment is likely to increase assuming either a business‐asusual or a pessimistic scenario. On the other hand, the quality of the food supply in Malawi (in terms of micronutrient provision) is likely to decrease even under a best‐case scenario. Moreover, projected dietary change in the form of nutrition transition in Malawi is unlikely to improve micronutrient provision sufficiently to meet requirements. This is a consequence of the already low supply of micronutrient dense foods in Malawi, the negative impact of climate change on micronutrient dense crops and an insufficient increase in micronutrient dense foods associated with nutrition transition. This study highlights the importance of moving beyond the focus on dietary energy supply as a measure of food security since nutrient adequacy of diets may be a more pressing issue in the future than simply the quantity of food and supply of energy.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere290
Number of pages14
JournalFood and Energy Security
Issue number3
Early online date4 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2021

Bibliographical note

The authors thank Keith Wiebe and Shahnila Dunston at IFPRI for providing data for use in this study. The authors also thank Heather Clark at the Rowett Institute for her help with the nutrition calculations.
Open Access via the Jisc Wiley Agreement

Funding information:
This work was funded by a PhD studentship for Charlotte Hall from the Scottish Food Security Alliance‐Crops (Universities of Aberdeen and Dundee and the James Hutton Institute) and contributes to the Belmont Forum funded DEVIL and ESPA ASSETS projects (NERC funding contributions: NE/M021327/1 and NE/J002267‐1, respectively). Jennie Macdiarmid acknowledges funding from the Rural and Environment Science and Analytical Services, Scottish Government.


  • Sustainable Development Goals
  • undernourishment
  • climate change
  • micronutrients
  • nutrition security


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