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Cropping systems diversification to enhance productivity and adaptation to climate change. Malawi

Policy Brief

Widespread maize monocropping in Malawi exposes farmers to significant livelihood risk in the context of increasing climate variability. 36 percent of rural households grow maize in monocrop. These farmers are often poor and land constrained, and experience low levels of productivity and high production volatility. The effects of crop diversification on farm productivity and income volatility in Malawi varies across cropping systems. Maize in combination with legumes is the only crop system in Malawi that is significantly associated with an increase in productivity and a reduction in crop income volatility. Contrary to expectations, crop systems with 3 or more crops do not significantly reduce crop income volatility relative to maize monocropping. Market weaknesses for many non-maize crops in Malawi limit the benefits from diversification. Higher volatility in prices of many non-maize crop is a disincentive to the adoption of diversified systems and pushes farmers toward monocropping. Household constraints are a key barrier to adopting more diverse farm systems. Sufficient household assets, particularly land, enable households to overcome the investment and risk costs associated with crop diversification. Coordination between private and public investments are required to improve the incentives for diversification in Malawi. A coordinated effort to strengthening input and output markets for non-maize crops, combined with public support to overcome household-level resource constraints to diversification (including public works programmes, input subsidies, and cash transfers) is necessary to promote widespread crop diversification
Published: 2019
Publisher: FAO
Geography: Africa