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How diversified is cropping in Malawi? Patterns, determinants and policy implications

Kankwamba, Henry, Kadzamira, Mariam, Pauw, Karl
Food security 2018 v.10 no.2 pp. 323-338
agricultural development, agroecological zones, case studies, climate change, developing countries, econometrics, farmers, farms, household surveys, human nutrition, issues and policy, macroeconomics, risk reduction, Malawi
Micro- and macroeconomic evidence suggest that the promotion of agricultural diversification in agriculture-based developing countries is beneficial. At the microeconomic level, increased agricultural diversification promotes human nutrition and raises household incomes, while allowing farmers to adapt to the challenges posed by climate change. Using Malawi as a case study, we analyzed the recent patterns and determinants of farm level crop diversification in order to better understand how policies impact on diversification and how they can be better formulated or implemented to effectively promote diversification. The study used descriptive and econometric approaches to study crop diversification. Data from two nationally representative household surveys, which covered cropping seasons in 2004/05 and 2010/11, show that crop diversification has deteriorated nationally in different Agricultural Development Divisions (ADDs), although beneficiaries of the widely-implemented Farm Input Subsidy Program (FISP) have become more diversified. The study also found that crop diversification varies significantly across agro-ecological zones. Results also indicate that deliberately targeted policies lead to more commercially orientated crop diversification. We conclude that further crop diversification could be promoted among different types of farmers with the aim of contributing to economic growth, risk reduction, and nutrition security in Malawi.