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

dc.contributor.advisorQaim, Matin Prof. Dr.
dc.contributor.authorKoppmair, Stefan
dc.titleDeterminants and livelihood impacts of natural resource management strategies among smallholder farmers in Malawide
dc.contributor.refereeWollni, Meike Prof. Dr.
dc.description.abstractengDuring 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 challenges among smallholder farms and support agricultural diversification to improve nutrition and tackle malnutrition problems. Simultaneously, Malawi’s agricultural sector wide approach (ASWAp) attempts to increase smallholder market integration in order to reduce poverty and food insecurity through increased income opportunities. The combination of these strategies is expected to foster environmental resilience of smallholder systems, increase productivity, and improve food and nutrition security via different pathways. However, this complex situation might raise questions among policy makers in Malawi and other SSA countries who tread a similar path. This dissertation sheds light on specific issues of policy concern. Research objective (i) addresses the question if a simultaneous promotion of input-intensive and NRM technologies among smallholder farms is possible. In particular, it investigates the under-researched issue if and how input subsidies influence the use of specific NRM practices such as legume intercropping, soil ridges, terraces or vegetative strips. Another question, which might be of policy interest, is studied under research objective (ii): how can specific agricultural production approaches and agricultural markets help to improve dietary quality in smallholder farm households? While an emerging number of studies has investigated the relationship between crop diversification and household dietary diversity among smallholder farmers, the role of markets and agricultural technologies for dietary diversity has received little attention. This dissertation contributes to the emerging literature by studying the above mentioned relationships with alternative indicators while additionally analysing individual food consumption recall data. Simultaneous household and individual level analyses, although rare, are important to ensure comparability between household and individual level data with regard to statements for nutrition policies. Research objectives (i) and (ii) are analysed with farm household survey data from rural Malawi. First, a multivariate probit framework combined with an instrumental variable approach is used to analyse research objective (i). The model results highlight that participation of smallholder farms in the input subsidy program is positively associated with the adoption of legume intercropping and vegetative strips, while promoting the use of modern inputs. In line with previous research, the results confirm a positive association between subsidy participation and manure use. The practice of soil ridging seems to be restricted by FISP. Independent of the subsidy program results show that farmers tend to use modern inputs and NRM practices complementarily, often combining different types of technologies. Research objective (ii) is investigated by analysing a number of different regression models. The models examine how different factors affect household and individual dietary diversity, particularly for young children and mothers. The results show that farm production diversity is positively associated with household and individual dietary diversity, yet smallholder market integration seems to have a stronger influence. The estimates indicate that specific input-intensive and NRM technologies are also positively associated with dietary diversity. In particular, legume intercropping is linked with child dietary diversity, while chemical fertilizer use is positively associated with mothers and household dietary diversity. Dietary diversity of young children and mothers is largely influenced by the same factors as the household diet. In conclusion, this dissertation shows that input-intensive and NRM technologies are compatible in smallholder farming systems. The findings imply that trade-offs between different policy approaches promoting one or the other strategy do not necessarily occur. Certain NRM practices are even more common among subsidy participants than non-participants. To understand how a simultaneous promotion of NRM and input-intensive technologies can be realized successfully, future research should investigate the role of extension services more explicitly. Among the desired outcomes of a successful promotion of these strategies is improved nutrition. Indeed, specific input-intensive and NRM technologies seem to contribute to diverse diets; and so do farm production diversification and smallholder market integration. While nutrition effects from diversified production might be largely direct and market effects indirect, specific farming technologies could affect nutrition through both pathways. Interestingly, these findings are largely similar for both, household and individual diets. Thus, household level food consumption data might be used to address broader nutritional issues at the individual level. Overall, policy approaches that harmonise the promotion of input-intensive and NRM technologies while strengthening market access and participation might be suitable strategies to improve dietary quality among and within smallholder farm
dc.contributor.coRefereeBrümmer, Bernhard Prof. Dr.
dc.subject.engSustainable agriculturede
dc.subject.engNutrition-sensitive agriculturede
dc.subject.engAgricultural technologiesde
dc.subject.engTechnology adoptionde
dc.subject.engInput subsidiesde
dc.subject.engDietary diversityde
dc.subject.engFood securityde
dc.subject.engSmallholder farmsde
dc.affiliation.instituteFakultät für Agrarwissenschaftende
dc.subject.gokfullLand- und Forstwirtschaft (PPN621302791)de

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