Social Protection or Humanitarian Assistance: Contested Input Subsidies and Climate Adaptation in Malawi

The purpose of this article is to assess factors that contributed to the apparent success of the Farm Input Support Programme (FISP) in the period 2005–15, and discuss the lessons that can be learned from this experience in relation to climate change adaptation. Important factors were the ability to balance external and internal drivers that affected policy formulation, national ownership and prestige that influenced and motivated implementation capability, creation of conducive conditions for agricultural development and the demand-driven nature of the programme. However, the flooding in 2015 and the drought in 2016 revealed that Malawi is in dire need of more effective measures that can reduce long-term vulnerability and build resilience to future adverse impacts of climate change. Still, lessons learned from the social protection programme can prove useful in relation to multiple efforts towards achieving sustainable climate change adaptation that could reduce the need for future humanitarian assistance.