Contribution of soil fertility replenishment agroforestry technologies to the livelihoods and food security of smallholder farmers in central and southern Malawi

Quinion, Ann Farrington
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Stellenbosch : Stellenbosch University
This study sought to examine the effects of soil fertility replenishment (SFR) adoption on household security and poverty reduction in smallholder farming households of central and southern Malawi by assessing food security, asset status, and household income generating activities in Kasungu and Machinga Districts during 2007. The results showed that households had been able to significantly increase maize production by an extra 382 kg per year in Kasungu and 242 kg per year in Machinga Districts, which constitutes approximately 35% and 22% of average household maize requirements for the year for each district, respectively. This reduced the critical annual hunger periods from 3.46 months to 2.80 months per year in Kasungu and from 4.31 months to 3.75 months in Machinga. Respondents also reported a significant increase in assets and an increase in income. Despite these positive changes, households were found to still be living in extreme poverty. Selling physical assets was the most common response to shocks and any increase in income was allocated to the purchase of food, household supplies, and other items necessary to immediate survival. This study revealed that while food security is paramount to the sustainable livelihoods of smallholder farmers, livelihood security and poverty reduction depend on more than increased food production. SFR technologies are fulfilling their primary role as a means to food security, but their adoption does not lead to significant livelihood improvements. Achieving lasting impacts requires that initiatives take an integrated approach and address not only household food production, but the multifaceted dynamics of social institutions, markets/economy, and policy. The long-term impacts of the current agroforestry programs in the study areas will emerge only with time. Livelihood improvements will depend on several factors. First, market inefficiencies must be remedied and economic barriers must be broken down. Second, the challenges identified by the respondents, especially access to resources and training, need to be addressed in a participatory way that promotes education and empowerment. As these two issues are tackled, households will become better equipped to manage the complexities that arise from SFR adoption and livelihood diversification. It is recommended that future research and initiatives should focus on identifying and removing economic barriers to markets, addressing farmeridentified challenges such as access to seed, water, and education and training, supporting households in managing multiple livelihood strategies, and continuing research to identify appropriate agroforestry species and technologies.
Thesis (MScFor (Forest and Wood Science))--Stellenbosch University, 2008.
Agroforestry, Soil fertility replenishment, Food security, Livelihoods, Malawi, Household security