APRA blog

Far from inclusive: smallholder farmer commercialisation in Malawi
April 21, 2022

What are the trends and patterns emerging in Malawi’s agricultural commercialisation process? What is the influence of these trends on poverty and food security, and the drivers of the process? How inclusive is agricultural commercialisation in the country? This blog, the second of a two-part series, explores the answers to these questions as they pertain to Malawi, based on the findings of a recent APRA paper, Patterns and drivers of agricultural commercialisation: evidence from Ghana, Nigeria, and Malawi.

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Polygamy and agricultural commercialisation in Malawi
April 13, 2022

Agricultural commercialisation is perceived as a positive step towards development and economic growth in Malawi, as well as a source of household income and livelihoods among local communities. However, the process of commercialisation is hindered by a number of factors, and remains unequal in its benefits as a result of gender inequalities that exits in the country. In this second blog of our two-part series on marital issues’ effects on agricultural commercialisation, we turn our attention to polygamy and its role in limiting women’s empowerment. Read the previous blog in this series, which focuses on marital issues in singular marriages as well as the experiences of male- versus female-headed households, here.

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Marriage and agricultural commercialisation in Malawi
April 7, 2022

Despite agricultural commercialisation being considered a positive step towards Malawi’s development and economic growth, as well as a source of household income and livelihoods among local communities, there are a number of factors that impede this process. Our research established that despite the fact that most households engage in some degree of agricultural commercialisation, its benefits remain limited. In this blog, we explore how marital issues affect agricultural commercialisation, specifically with regards to women’s involvement, and, in reverse, how commercialisation impacts marital relations. We use data collected by the APRA Malawi team, dwelling much on the qualitative data collected through focus group discussions, key informant interviews and life histories.

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Mixed fortunes for central Malawi’s farmer producer organisations
March 10, 2022

Malawi’s agriculture sector has a multiplicity of different types of farmer producer organisations (FPOs), operating at different levels. Farmer clubs, farmer associations, and farmer cooperatives are among the various names that FPOs are known as in Malawi, but what they all have in common is their mission to transform their members’ farms into commercially successful enterprises, characterised by high productivity and high profitability. APRA Working Paper 82 explores the effectiveness of FPOs in enhancing smallholder commercialisation in central Malawi. This blog reflects on the paper’s findings.

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Climate-smart agriculture practices as a pathway to livelihood improvement in central Malawi
March 8, 2022

Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) practices, used to promote sustainable agriculture, include technologies for soil fertility improvement, soil and water conservation and agroforestry tree cultivation. Their adoption, whilst patchy across Africa and particularly in Malawi, have the potential to support increases in crop productivity, resilience to crop failures, income, and the overall food security of smallholder farming households. The pathways to households’ adoption of CSA technologies and the resulting impacts of these technologies on other aspects of the households’ livelihoods and practices were explored in APRA Working Paper 81. This blog explores the key findings of this paper, and how the adoption of CSA practices can be encouraged in central Malawi.

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Did enforcement of farm-gate minimum prices lead to a maize marketing crisis in Malawi?
March 1, 2022

During the 2020/21 growing season, the Government of Malawi made a bold move to protect small-scale farmers from unscrupulous traders who buy farm produce without licenses, use uncertified scales and buy at very low prices below the farm-gate set prices. The government tasked the Malawi Police Service with ensuring that all traders in the agricultural sector adhered to the set measures, and traders that did not comply were persecuted. By May 2021, 109 traders had been arrested across the country, and those prosecuted had to pay a fine of MK60,000 (US$75) or be jailed for 9 months. The Malawi Police Service was applauded for enforcing farm-gate set prices, but what were the implications on grain marketing in the local markets?

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Agrarian change and rural transformation in sub-Saharan Africa: Emerging challenges and regional realities
January 27, 2022

On 20 January 2022, an e-dialogue was convened to analyse the dynamics of agricultural commercialisation and agrarian change across East, West, and Southern Africa. The programme began with participants engaging in three parallel regional presentations and discussions, and culminated in a continental-level panel involving expert commentators and audience questions.

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Beyond impressive results: Are we ready to act?
December 20, 2021

In its efforts to disseminate the results of a five-year research project, the APRA Malawi team held a national dissemination event at Ufulu Gardens in Lilongwe on 30 November 2021. The event brought together stakeholders from government, donor, civil society, media and research and academic institutions working in the realm of agricultural commercialisation in the country. At this event, the team shared results of a longitudinal tracker study of agricultural commercialisation and livelihood trajectories in Malawi. More information on this event can be found in the first of this two-part blog series, here.

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Prospects for smallholder commercialisation in Malawi
December 8, 2021

This blog is based on APRA Working Paper 75, which presents a historical and contemporary agrarian inquiry into the reality of agricultural commercialisation in Malawi. The study’s key message is that smallholder agricultural commercialisation is possible, but it cannot be attained on a sustainable basis in the context of the contemporary agrarian set-up. This blog looks beyond the study’s findings to identify a pathway forward for Malawi’s smallholder farmers.

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APRA Malawi research team shares research findings
December 6, 2021

Since 2016, the APRA Malawi team has been working to understand the underlying factors of smallholder commercialisation in the groundnut value chain in Mchinji and Ntchisi. Now, following the publication of their research findings, the team is turning its attention to dissemination efforts to share these critical findings with those most impacted by them. In this campaign, APRA Malawi researchers Blessings Chinsinga and Mirriam Matita presented findings to 29 stakeholders from the government, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), civil society networks and additional stakeholders at a national dissemination workshop on 30th November 2021. Among these attendees, 10 were women and 19 were men.

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Streetwise explanations for extremely low new COVID-19 cases in Malawi
December 2, 2021

From September, throughout October and as we now enter November, Malawi has seen its new daily COVID-19 cases sharply reduce to an all-time low. In fact, zero new daily COVID-19 cases have become very common during this period as reported by the Ministry of Health. New admissions into the COVID-19 hospital wards have also sharply reduced. The flattening of all these three curves is obviously a great relief to government, private sector, and households whose businesses and livelihoods ground to a halt as a result of the ruthless pandemic. This blog reflects on this steep decline in COVID cases and the public’s perception of its causes, as well as recent research presented in APRA’s Impact of COVID-19 on Food Systems and Rural Livelihoods in Malawi Synthesis Report.

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Agricultural commercialisation in Africa, COVID-19 and social difference
November 15, 2021

African policymaking has turned to agricultural commercialisation as an engine of growth in the 21st century. But the effects have not been the same for everyone, entrenching long-term social difference based on gender, wealth, age and generation, ethnicity and citizenship. Social differentiation within commercial agriculture is shaped by power dynamics and the distribution of benefits between elites, and their relationship with the formal and informal institutions that underpin political systems. This idea of a ‘political settlement’ in the way that power is exercised between groups, often to avoid conflict or to give preferential access to a specific resource, gives different groups of people different standing within agricultural value chains. COVID-19 as a type of shock also shapes political settlements and the resilience of different actors in their response to the pandemic. It can also reinforce pre-existing trends in social differentiation. APRA’s research showed how this has happened across Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe, and APRA Working Paper 69 presents the research findings.

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End of the road? The future of smallholder farmers in Malawi
August 16, 2021

This paper reflects on the findings of APRA Working Paper 56 and APRA Working Paper 58 to understand the reality of smallholder farming in Malawi, and what the future can be expected to hold for individuals involved in this sector. Further, the authors assess why the current outlook of smallholder farming is as it is, and seeks to understand the policy landscape that could carve a space for small-scale farmers in Malawi’s agricultural future.

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Social issues impacting household food security in the epoch of COVID-19
June 28, 2021

Written by: Loveness Msofi Mgalamadzi The COVID-19 pandemic has affected lives and livelihoods around the world, and Malawi is no exception. This blog explores the social and food security issues arising from the implementation of COVID-19 preventive measures at household level in the country. Introduction The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about unprecedented impacts that have… Read more »

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Gender and social differentiation in the context of agricultural commercialisation in Malawi
June 21, 2021

This blog summarises the findings of APRA Working Paper 58, observing agricultural commercialisation in Malawi and how it differs among various gender and social groups. This study found that female-headed and poorer households are at a disadvantage compared to their male-headed and wealthier counterparts due to differential access to resources and control over decision-making. The following blog provides a deeper look into this reality, and assesses the impact of gender and wealth on several aspects of commercialisation.

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At the mercy of politics? The groundnut value chain in Malawi
May 17, 2021

This blog highlights the findings of APRA Working Paper 56, observing the groundnut value chain in Malawi in both historical and contemporary perspectives through qualitative tools of inquiry. This study found that this value chain has experienced notable recovery in terms of productivity, but remains primarily informal and struggles to re-enter the lucrative formal global export markets. The following blog explores why this is the case, as well as examining the socio-economic importance of this crop and what can be done to support it in reaching its full potential moving forward.

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Agricultural livelihood paths and their determinants: the role of smallholder farmer commercialisation in central Malawi
March 25, 2021

In this blog summarising APRA Working Paper 50, the APRA researcher Mirriam Matita explores the results of a recent study into the role of smallholder agricultural commercialisation in livelihood trajectories in central Malawi, and examines the longer-term policy implications of such findings.

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COVID-19 and price uncertainties in grain marketing in Malawi
January 14, 2021

In the third and final blog of the series on grain marketing in Malawi, APRA researcher Stevier Kaiyatsa looks at the contributing effects of COVID-19 on grain price instability, the implication of this, and what the Malawian government can do to tackle the problem. Part one examined the role played by small-scale traders in the… Read more »

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How small-scale traders exploit farmers in Malawi
January 11, 2021

In the second of a three-part blog series on grain marketing in Malawi, APRA researchers Stevier Kaiyatsa and Mphatso Susuwele examine the methods used by some small-scale traders are taking advantage of farmers who produce a market surplus, and what the government should do to help. Part one looked more closely at the vital role… Read more »

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Understanding small-scale grain traders in Malawi
January 7, 2021

In the first of a three-part blog series on grain marketing in Malawi, APRA researchers Stevier Kaiyatsa and Mphatso Susuwele examine the vital role played by small-scale traders in Malawi in the grain supply chains, how they are classified, and why understanding them is key for any kind of programme intervention that aims to improve… Read more »

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Do those not enrolled in Fairtrade arrangements in Malawi still benefit? (2)
October 29, 2020

In the second of a two-part blog series, APRA researcher Stevier Kaiyatsa examines the Fairtrade groundnut arrangement in Mchinji, Malawi, and asks whether farmers not enrolled it still benefit? For part one on whether smallholder farmers in Malawi benefit from selling their goods small-scale traders in rural markets, click here. This blog is based on… Read more »

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Do farmers benefit when they sell to small-scale traders in the rural market in Malawi? (1)
October 26, 2020

In the first of a two-part blog series, APRA researcher Stevier Kaiyatsa examines new APRA research and determines whether smallholder farmers in Malawi that operate in isolation benefit from selling their agricultural produce to the small-scale traders in rural markets. Part two looks at the effects of the Fairtrade arrangement on program non-beneficiaries in Malawi… Read more »

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Top Tips from APRA’s Policy friends
January 16, 2020

During APRA’s recent annual meeting in Naivasha from 2-6 December 2019, a panel of distinguished policy voices made up of representatives from Department for International Development (DFID), African Union (AU), Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Tegemeo Institute, Agricultural Non-State Actors Forum (ANSAF), and independent consultants shared their perspectives and offered advice on how to guarantee… Read more »

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APRA Annual Workshop 2019 hosted by CABE
December 19, 2019

The Centre for African Bio-Entrepreneurship (CABE) successfully hosted the APRA Annual Review and Planning Workshop in Naivasha, Kenya from 2-6 December 2019. Members of the three APRA work streams and APRA Consortium, stationed at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), also participated. The theme of this year’s workshop was Impact, Communications and Engagement (ICE).  It… Read more »

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Unattractive bride – the case of government extension services in Central Malawi
December 5, 2019

In 2000, Malawi adopted a pluralistic and demand-driven agricultural extension policy which liberalised agricultural extension provision, allowing multiple stakeholders to freely provide extension services that are coordinated and regulated by the government. This policy is anchored by an implementation system called District Agricultural Extension Services System (DAESS) that has established structures at District, and community… Read more »

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A lever for agricultural commercialisation? A critical look at the agricultural extension system in Malawi.
May 20, 2019

In this assessment, we ask the question: is the extension services system in Malawi doing enough to facilitate agricultural commercialisation among smallholder farmers? This question arrives amidst concerns that commercial agriculture in Malawi, especially among small-scale farmers, has not really taken off as farmers struggle to produce and sell their produce. That situation occurred despite… Read more »

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It is impossible to commercialise agriculture in Malawi: A quick political economy audit
May 3, 2019

Introduction Agriculture is the mainstay of Malawi’s economy; it contributes between 30 to 40 % of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP); employs 85 % of the workforce; accounts for about 60 % of rural income; and, contributes about 90 % of total export earnings. The main challenge however, is that the agricultural sector is not… Read more »

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Malawi Tracker Study: Experiences from the Field
October 22, 2018

The APRA Malawi team is finally in the field after months of meticulous preparations to get the ‘tracker’ study going. The subject of this tracker is groundnut commercialisation in Malawi’s central districts of Ntchisi and Mchinji. The goal is to understand the drivers of groundnut commercialisation in these two districts, from both a historical and… Read more »

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Failed Promises: the Decline of Cooperative Membership in Malawi
September 27, 2018

Most smallholder farmers in Malawi are seeing their livelihoods and overall social-economic status getting worse. The reasons for this regrettable trend are many and are well documented. However, one of the main reasons that has been given more attention is that the smallholder farmers are disadvantaged participants – or competitors – on the agricultural market.… Read more »

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Groundnut commercialisation trends in Malawi
September 6, 2018

According to World Atlas, 2017, Malawi is one of the major exporters of groundnuts in Africa. Malawi has a history of supplying groundnuts to the global market and its yields compete with regional competitors. Groundnut is the most important legume crop produced in Malawi – both in terms of production area and volume – and… Read more »

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Groundnut marketing in Malawi: a review of farmer experiences
April 20, 2018

By Mirriam Matita et al Image: Groundnut harvesting 5 (CC BY-SA 2.0) As part of APRA’s research in Malawi, field work was conducted in Mchinji and Ntchisi districts to document farmer’s experiences of agricultural commercialisation since the 1980s, particularly of groundnuts. One of the constraints to agricultural commercialisation that was raised consistently by farmers was… Read more »

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