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Diversification, climate risk and vulnerability to poverty in rural Malawi










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    Livelihood Diversification and Vulnerability to Poverty in Rural Malawi
    ESA Working Paper No. 15-02
    2015
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    Climate variability, associated with farm-income variability, is recognized as one of the main drivers of livelihood diversification strategies in developing countries. Analysing determinants of livelihood diversification choices, to better understand household strategic behaviour in the event of climatic risks and other shocks, is important for the formulation of development policies in developing countries highly dependent on rain-fed agriculture, like Malawi. We use geo-referenced farm-househ old-level data collected in 2010-11 to investigate how climatic variability influences the pattern of diversification that farmers adopt, and the impacts of these choices on welfare. To do so we apply the “vulnerability to expected poverty” approach which measures the future level of poverty taking into consideration the role of risk and uncertainty. The analysis considers the effect of policies and institutions such as fertilizer subsidies, extension services, safety-net and credit on diversifi cation choices. The results show that higher levels of climate risk generally increase the likelihood of diversification across labour, cropland and income, suggesting the importance of diversification as a response to constraints imposed by increased risk. In contrast, we find that in areas with favourable average rainfall conditions households are more likely to diversify income, suggesting diversification as a response to opportunities. In terms of welfare, the analysis performed on the compo nents of vulnerability to poverty provides evidence that climatic variables are key determinants of both components of vulnerability (expected consumption and its variance). Fertilizer subsidies are found to be significant in diversification choices for all dimensions and also particularly effective in reducing vulnerability to poverty in high variability environments although the same does not hold for extension. Looking at differences across gender, we find that women labour diversification is less responsive than men’s, resulting in a lower positive impact on expected consumption per capita.
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    Climate variability, adaptation strategies and food security in Malawi 2014
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    This paper assesses farmers’ incentives and conditioning factors that hinder or promote adaptation strategies and evaluates its impact on crop productivity by utilizing household level data collected in 2011 from nationally representative sample households in Malawi. We distinguish between (i) exposure to climatic disruptions, (ii) bio-physical sensitivity to such disruptions, (iii) household adaptive capacity in terms of farmers’ ability to prepare and adjust to the resulting stress, and, fina lly, (iv) system-level adaptive capacity that serve as enabling factors for household-level adaptation. We employ a multivariate probit (MVP) and instrumental variable technique to model farming practice selection decisions and their yield impact estimates. We find that exposure to delayed onset of rainfall and greater climate variability as represented by the coefficient of variation of rainfall and temperature is positively associated with the choice of risk-reducing agricultural practices suc h as tree planting, legume intercropping, and soil and water conservation (SWC); however, it reduces the use of inputs (such as inorganic fertilizer) whose risk reduction benefits are uncertain. Biophysical sensitivity of plots increases the likelihood of choice of tree planting and SWC. In terms of household adaptive capacity, we find that wealthier households are more likely to adopt both modern and sustainable land management (SLM) inputs; and are more likely to adopt SLM inputs on plots unde r more secure tenure. In terms of system-level adaptive capacity, results show the key role of rural institutions, social capital and supply-side constraints in governing selection decisions for all practices considered, but particularly for tree planting and both organic and inorganic fertilizer. Finally for productivity, we find that on average use of both modern and SLM practices have positive and statistically significant impact on productivity of maize. For SLM practices that also respond t o exposure and sensitivity, these results provide direct evidence of their potential to aide households in adapting to further climate change. Results presented have implications for understanding and overcoming barriers to selection for each practice, distinguishing structural aspects such as exposure and sensitivity from potential interventions at the household or systemic levels linked to adaptive capacity.
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    Brochure, flyer, fact-sheet
    Cropping systems diversification to enhance productivity and adaptation to climate change in Malawi 2019
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    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 cropping system in Malawi that is significantly associated with an increase in productivity and a reduction in crop income volatility. Contrary to expectations, cropping 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 cropping 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.

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