Current global climatic changes have resulted in frequent occurrences of droughts and floods, a scenario that has affected agricultural production, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. This study reports on the results from a household survey in the Balaka and Mangochi Districts of Malawi. The overall objective of the study was to characterize the maize producing households and to assess the adoption of improved maize varieties in Malawi, through an understanding of the households’ access to assets, household livelihood strategies, and the production and price risks that farmers face.
The study has shown that households’ access to livelihood capitals such as human, natural, physical, financial and institutional is limited in the two districts with increasing land scarcity. Maize is the most popular crop. The most common maize varieties are local open pollinated varieties (OPVs) and hybrids. The major input sources for crop production are the Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (ADMARC), Agora, Kulima Gold, and traders/vendors. Major shocks are droughts and floods while prominent production risks are price and yield fluctuations, and fertilizer availability and affordability. To mitigate such risks, farmers change cropping area of a given crop, and engage in crop diversification and off-farm activities.
The key issue emerging from this study is that climatic factors such as droughts and floods pose a challenge to agricultural production in Mangochi and Balaka, and Malawi as a whole. The continued changes in the global climate are a serious threat to Malawi’s food security and poverty reduction objectives. As such, there is need to support actions that facilitate the ability of the agricultural sector to cope with climate changes. The promotion of improved drought tolerant and early maturing maize varieties seems a good entry point.