Focus on Malawi –
A THRSP Success Story

With a total of nine Scholars and four Enhanced Scholars over the first three years of the THRSP, Malawi has benefited from significant investment from the Programme. This support has been rewarded both with excellent results for individual Scholars and with broader high-level impacts, including, in 2020, a commitment from the Ministry of Health to incorporate tobacco harm reduction elements in forthcoming national policy. But why focus on Malawi – and what’s behind the Programme’s success here?

The Context: an Economy Tied to Tobacco

✓ Malawi is one of the world’s poorest countries, with an economy that is heavily dependent on agriculture.

✓ 65% of the country’s GDP comes from the production of tobacco, which employs an estimated 75% of the population.

✓ Families depend on tobacco as a key income source; it may be the only crop they grow.

✓ Global demand for tobacco is in decline, leading to ever lower market prices.

✓ As a mainstay of the economy, tobacco is deeply politicised.

✓ Consequently, while smoking is a common risk factor for non-communicable diseases in Malawi, tobacco control structures and support for smokers to quit are lacking.

✓ Recently the Government of Malawi has been leading calls for agricultural diversification, with tobacco farmers encouraged to move to crops such as groundnuts, soy beans or industrial hemp.

✓ The scale of the economic transition required is substantial – but the political will is there.