Determinants and livelihood impacts of natural resource management strategies among smallholder farmers in Malawi

by Stefan Koppmair

Institution: Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
Year: 2016
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2135516
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-1735-0000-0028-8765-0


During the last five decades, policy approaches towards food security have promoted input-intensive agricultural technologies to increase global food production. However, there are concerns about the environmental, social and economic sustainability of this strategy. Environmental degradation causes the loss of 2 to 5 million hectares of arable land every year, mostly in developing countries. At the same time, undernutrition and micronutrient deficiencies affect up to 2 billion people worldwide and present a particularly huge burden among the poor. Further depletion of water, soil and land resources will impact the production capability of agricultural systems with negative implications for food production and quality. It is inevitable that the global food production system must strive for a more sustainable use of natural resources and reduce the environmental externalities of agricultural production. Simultaneously, agriculture must provide more nutrient-rich and diverse food items in order to tackle the complex challenges of food insecurity and malnutrition. Natural resource management (NRM) strategies are a promising approach towards environmentally sustainable agricultural production. NRM practices, such as soil and water conservation and legume intercropping, may decrease soil erosion, improve soil fertility, and reduce production losses due to agricultural pests. NRM practices might also liberate smallholder farmers from the sole dependence on improved technologies and support asset-constrained households with affordable alternatives. Some policy agendas consider a simultaneous promotion of NRM and input-intensive technologies. The combination of these technologies can provide farmers with dual benefits: environmental externalities of agricultural production may be reduced, while achieving higher crop yields at the same time. Increasing the production potential of smallholders is very important to enhance farm households’ food security. Under the condition of accessible, functioning food markets, increased production might also indirectly improve the quality of diets if crop sales can boost household income which in turn is used to purchase more diverse foods. An explicit resource management practice, that helps to reduce environmental externalities while improving dietary quality, is the diversification of own farm production, which is sometimes perceived as a key strategy to improve food and nutrition security among subsistence-oriented smallholder farms in remote rural areas. In Malawi and other countries of sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), rural smallholder farmers dominate the agricultural sector. They are responsible for the bulk of national food supply, but also belong to the poorest and most food insecure population segments. Malawi has been the pioneer in re-introducing targeted farm input subsidies in SSA that support smallholders with improved seed varieties and chemical fertilizer. Recently, the government has added NRM strategies to the agricultural development agenda to overcome environmental… Advisors/Committee Members: Qaim, Matin (advisor), Wollni, Meike (referee), Brümmer, Bernhard (referee).