Diversity of sources of income for smallholder farming communities in Malawi: Importance for improved livelihood

Muhammad Azher Bhatti, Sosheel Solomon Godfrey, Ryan H.L. Ip, Chipo Kachiwala, Håvard Hovdhaugen, Liveness J. Banda, Moses Limuwa, Peter C. Wynn, Tormod Ådnøy, Lars Olav Eik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
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Agriculture is vital to global food production. Around 550 million smallholding households produce most of the world’s food, and many rely on livestock rearing for a living. Smallholder farms must survive and thrive to maintain and increase food production. Baseline information is vital for further extension service interventions. The goal of this Malawian study was to collect quantitative baseline data on crop and livestock production, agriproduct sales, and other indicators through a household survey, and to compare the efficacy (in terms of income) of using the concept of “Lead and Follow” farmer training programs. The baseline study survey was carried out in 44 sections of 11 extension planning areas from Malawi’s five districts (Dowa, Kasungu, Mchinji, Mzimba, and Rumphi). In total, 1131 smallholder households were interviewed. Crop production, livestock farming, and providing casual labor for others were all identified as significant sources of income for smallholders, implying that all agriproducts (the whole-farm approach) is equally important for improving smallholder livelihoods. On the one hand, the whole-farm approach should improve smallholders’ resilience regarding climate change and poverty. Lower agriproduct sales, on the other hand, indicated that links to the market were frequently poor but an increased market focus should help smallholders sell their produce at a fair margin. In terms of best practices adoption, both Lead and Follow farmers adopted similar farm practices (crops and livestock) to increase income. In general, no significant difference in income was calculated from many farm enterprises for both Lead and Follow farmers. However, the income from pigs and firewood was significantly higher for Follow farmers than for Lead farmers. Lead farmers reported significantly higher off-farm income sources. Significant changes are proposed to the “Lead farmer extension approach”.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9599
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number17
Publication statusPublished - 26 Aug 2021


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